Using Comics in Math Class


Comics/cartoons have been used to communicate important issues for many years.  Education has even been part of the comic movement.  Susan O’hanian has demonstrated with her website how cartoons can communicate and start important conversations.  I’ve tinkered with comics in my math classroom this year.

I believe that humor has a place in the classroom.   Comics can bring in a humor aspect, as well as practicality and motivation that can engage students.  My students are starting their algebra unit this week and I’ve been looking for new ways to introduce combining like terms and solving for unknown variables.  In the past I’ve used Hands-on-Equations and different types of narratives that explain how like terms can be combined.  After a lot of searching,  I ended up using pages 5 – 8 in this pdf to help introduce the concept this year.  Students responded well to the comic and I believe it helped them complete the activity in the document below.  I used one of the practice sheets as a model and the second sheet was completed and shared in student groups.

Combining Like Terms Activity

When I look back at some of my favorite K-12 teachers, many of them were able to connect and build rapport with students quickly and use humor appropriately.  I’m going to explore how to use  comics a bit more in my classroom over the next few weeks.  I may even have students create their own through comic creator apps on the iPad.

How do you use comics in the classroom?

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

7 thoughts on “Using Comics in Math Class”

  1. I use comics inadequately. I think I regularly make the mistake of supposing that the comic has to be very close to the subject at hand, when it’s probably even better if the link is tenuous and I have to explain why this comic strip leads to this other subject.

    (I’ve become aware that the most popular recurring theme of my mathematics blog is mentioning mathematics topics from the syndicated newspaper comics and what they’re getting at, which probably at least is helping me figure out links from a simple comic to a deeper mathematical subject.)


    1. I appreciate your candor and believe comics can be used in a variety of situations. I’ve used them to introduce/review math concepts and to highlight current events. The humor and connections can help build rapport and bring a common experience to your classroom. Those experiences can then be referred back to as the year progresses. Thanks for comment.


        1. Yes! I added a few prompts and shared the doc with my colleagues earlier in the week after #msmathchat. I use your drawings with my 3-5th grade crew. The students find them comical and they tend to spark some conversations. Students know they’re not mine because I don’t have all those colorful markers and I usually draw with stick people.


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