Friday, 28 June 2013

Telling Equation Stories with Comics

Algebra can get pretty abstract, but I find most kids can get their teeth into a good equation. "What number, if I add 8 to it, gives me 12?" No worries.

When we get to "word problems", when things could get interesting, they tend to get a bit dry instead. Kids have great imaginations, but instead of drawing on that amazing resource, we feed them boring textbook exercises or worksheets. Let's have some fun instead.

Last year with my lovely year 7s, we turned our imaginations to making movies about equations. With year 9 this year, we turned to comics.

Some free online comic generators to use for your lesson:

Marvel Kids - limited characters and a set of props that don't seem to fit your standard superhero story, but a great set of layouts and you can add pages as you go, so you don't need to know an exact plan when you start.

Make Beliefs - a nice simple one, with some cute animal characters and mutliple language options.

Comic Master - Loads of options for layout, backgrounds and characters.

How to use the comic generators in your equations lesson:

  • Brainstorm and work through examples together. Put an equation on the board and talk about what situation it could represent.
  • Get students to have a plan before they start, but not too strict a plan. Working with the comic generators will give students more ideas and they need to be ready to go where the creativity takes them, but they do need to have some ideas so they have direction.
  • Leave more time than you expect. I always forget this one!
  • Demonstrate how to start with whichever technology you choose to use. I showed the class how to get started on a few sites. It was putting random things into the Marvel Kids one that inspired my story about the Hulk smashing lamps.

I may have had too much fun with this one!

What mathematics topics do you think lend themselves to creating comics?

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