Student Content Creators: Math Comics

Math and Comics


One of my classroom themes this year involves having students create digital content.  Sticking with that theme, I’ve been exploring different avenues in which students can create digital content that can be shared with authentic audiences.  Throughout the year my students have created different presentations with a variety of apps and have shared them with their parents and the world.  I find that students become much more engaged and empowered when given a chance to create.

Our latest project involves math comics.  I continue to find benefits of using comics in the math classroom.  After using them to introduce a variety of concepts this year, I came across the Strip Design app.  I thought that this app might be helpful to introduce and expand student understanding of content area specific vocabulary.  Students would also have an opportunity to create digital content by completing this project.  Specifically, I thought that students could create a math comic strip starring themselves.  At the beginning of the math unit in late February, students were given a list of key math vocabulary words.  Students  were given an opportunity to choose a specific vocabulary word from the unit.  Students were asked to create a comic strip starring themselves and a classmate showcasing an understanding of the vocabulary word.  As a class, we created a rubric which allowed students opportunities to showcase their understanding and share it with others.

Click for Excel Template
Click for rubric template

Students took pictures of themselves and created a script and scenario.  Students checked in on their progress after each session.  I had a brief conference with each student during the project and they filled out the rubric above to make sure that they met the guidelines. After completion, the student comic strips were uploaded to Showbie and eventually placed in their portfolio pages.  Next week the class will be sharing our math comics with other grade levels in the school.

Using Comics in Math Class

Comics

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?