3 reasons we use graphic novels to teach math and physics
Post-pandemic, some educators are trying to reengage students with technology – like videos, computer gaming or artificial intelligence, just to name a few. But integrating these approaches in the classroom can be an uphill battle. Teachers using these tools often struggle to retain students’ attention, competing with the latest social media phenomenon, and can feel limited by using short video clips to get concepts across.
Graphic novels – offering visual information married with text – provide a means to engage students without losing all of the rigor of textbooks. As two educators in mathand physics, we have found graphic novels to be effective at teaching students of all ability levels. We’ve used graphic novels in our own classes, and we’ve also inspired and encouraged other teachers to use them. And we’re not alone: Other teachers are rejuvenating this analog medium with a high level of success.
In addition to covering a wide range of topics and audiences, graphic novels can explain tough topics without alienating student averse to STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. Even for students who already like math and physics, graphic novels provide a way to dive into topics beyond what is possible in a time-constrained class. In our book “Using Graphic Novels in the STEM Classroom,” we discuss the many reasons why graphic novels have a unique place in math and physics education. Here are three of those reasons:
Explaining complex concepts with rigor and fun
Increasingly, schools are moving away from textbooks, even though studies show that students learn better using print rather than digital formats. Graphic novels offer the best of both worlds: a hybrid between modern and traditional media.
This integration of text with images and diagrams is especially useful in STEM disciplines that require quantitative reading and data analysis skills, like math and physics.
Rather than stressing over equations, Ho’s students focus on understanding the subject more conceptually. This approach helps build their intuition before diving into the algebra. They get a feeling for the fundamentals before they have to worry about equations.
After having taken Ho’s class, more than 85% of his students agreed that they would recommend using graphic novels in STEM classes, and 90% found this particular use of “Max the Demon” helpful for their learning. When strategically used, graphic novels can create a dynamic, engaging teaching environment even with nuanced, quantitative topics.