A framework for designing mathematics instruction using comics at the primary school level

Yun Li Lynnette Chu(1), Tin Lam Toh(2*)

(1) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University,
(2) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University,
(*) Corresponding Author


Developing primary school students’ interest in and getting them motivated to learn mathematics has been a perennial focus of educators. The use of comics for classroom instruction is an area gaining more attention from educators. In this paper, we review some existing education literature on the impact of comics on students’ cognitive and affective learning needs. We also propose a TSCT (Theme, Storyline, Character, Text) framework for educators to design instructional material using comics for mathematics instruction in the primary mathematics classroom. With the TSCT framework, we demonstrate the design of one comics mathematics lesson on the topic of Fraction.


Comics, primary, mathematics Education, fractions

Full Text:



Aiken, K. (2010, April). Superhero History: Using comic books to teach U.S. history. OAH Magazine of History, 24(2), 41-47. https://doi.org/10.1093/maghis/24.2.41

Aleixo, P., & Norris, C. (2007). Comics, Reading and Primary Aged Children. Education & Health, 25(4), 70-73.

Aleixo, P., & Sumner, K. (2017). Memory for biopsychology material presented in comic book format. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 8(1), 79-88. https://doi.org/10.1080/21504857.2016.1219957

Baeza-Yates, R., & Rello, L. (2013). Good Fonts for Dyslexia. Retrieved from http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/sites/default/files/good_fonts_for_dyslexia_study.pdf

Bolton-Gary, C. (2012). Connecting Through Comics: Expanding Opportunities for Teaching and Learning. US-China Education Review B, 4 (2012), 389 – 395. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED533545.pdf

Cheeseman, K. (2006). Using Comics in the science classroom. Journal of College Science Teaching, 35(4), 48-51.

Cho, J. Y. (2007). Engineering Math? How about it in Comics? Gyeongsang: KyoWooSa.

Cho, H., Osborne, C., & Sanders, T. (2015). Classroom experience about cartooning as assessment in pre-service Mathematics content course. Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College, 6, 45-53. https://doi.org/10.7916/jmetc.v6i1.609

Cleaver, S. (2008). Comics and graphic novels. Instructor, 117 (6), 28 – 30.

Davies, J., & Brember, I. (1993). Comics or stories? Differences in reading attitudes and habits of girls and boys in years 2, 5, and 6. Gender and Education, 5, 305-319. https://doi.org/10.1080/0954025930050306

Edge, D. (2007). Teaching of fractions. In P. Y. Lee (Ed.), Teaching primary school mathematics: A resource book (pp. 130 – 154). Singapore: McGraw-Hill.

Farinella, M. (2018). The potential of comics in science education. Journal of Science Communication, 17 (01), Y01. https://doi.org/10.22323/2.17010401

Ginns, P. (2006). Integrating information: A meta-analysis of the spatial contiguity and temporal contiguity effects. Learning and Instruction, 16(6), 511–525. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2006.10.001

Groensteen, T. (2007). The System of Comics. University Press of Mississippi.

Hallenbeck, P. N. (1976). Remediating with comic strips. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 9(1), 22-26. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F002221947600900102

Hartley, J. (2004). Designing instructional and informational text. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.) Handbook of Research in Educational Communications and Technology (2nd ed.) (pp. 917-947). Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Kaplan, R.M., & Pascoe, G.C. (1977). Humorous Lectures and Humorous Examples: Some effects upon Comprehension and Retention. Journal of Educational Psychology, 69(1), 61-65. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0022-0663.69.1.61

Keselman, A., Levin, D. M., Kramer, J. F., Matzkin, K., & Dutcher, G. (2011). Educating Young People about Environmental Health for Informed Social Action. Umwelt und gesundheit online, 4, 1–8.

Jee, B. D., & Anggoro, F. K. (2012). Comic cognition: Exploring the potential cognitive impacts of science comics. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 11(2), 196-208. https://doi.org/10.1891/1945-8959.11.2.196

Jeronen, E., Jeronen, J., &Raustia, H. (2009). Environmental Education in Finland—A Case Study of Environmental Education in Nature School. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 4 (1), 1–23. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ884383

Jordan, N. C. (2007). Do words count? Connections between mathematics and reading difficulties. In D. B. Berch & M. M. M. Mazzocco (Eds.), Why is math so hard for some children? The nature and origins of mathematical learning difficulties and disabilities (pp. 107–120). Paul H Brookes Publishing. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2007-03663-006

Landerl, K., Fussenegger,B., Moll, K., & Willburger, E. (2009). Dyslexia and Dyscalculia; Two Learning Disorders With Different Cognitive Profiles. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 103, 309-324. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2009.03.006

Lowrie, T. (2012). Visual and Spatial Reasoning: The Changing Form of Mathematics Representation and Communication. In T.L. Toh, & B. Kaur (Eds.), Reasoning, communication and connections in mathematics: Yearbook 2012, Association of Mathematics (pp. 149-168). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1142/8466

Lujan, H.L., & DiCarlo, S.E. (2016). Humor promotes learning! Advances in physiology education, 40(4), 433-434. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00123.2016.

Martin, R. (2007). The psychology of humor. Burlington, Massachusetts: Elsevier Academic Press.

Mayer, R. E. (2003). The promise of multimedia learning: Using the same instructional design methods across different media. Learning and Instruction, 13(2), 125–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0959-4752(02)00016-6

Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia learning (2nded.). Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. E. & Gallini, J. K. (1990). When is an illustration worth ten thousand words? Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 715-726. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.82.4.715.

Mayer, R.E., Steinhoff, K., Bower, G., & Mars, R. (1995). A generative theory of textbook design: Using annotated illustrations to foster meaningful learning of science text. Educational Technology Research and Development, 43(1), 31-44. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02300480

McCloud, S. (1993), Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, New York, NY: Harper Collins

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (1999). Cognitive principles of multimedia learning: The role of modality and contiguity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(2).358-368. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0022-0663.91.2.358

Motion Picture Association of America. (2015, March 11). Theatrical market statistics 2014. http://www.mpaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MPAA-Theatrical-Market-Statistics-2014.pdf

O'Roark, B. (2017). Super-economics man! Using superheroes to teach economics. Journal of Economics Teaching, 2(1), 51–67.

Ozdemir, E. (2017). Humor in elementary science: Development and evaluation of comic strips about sound. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 9, 837-850. https://iejee.com/index.php/IEJEE/article/view/288

Paivio, A. (1986). Mental Representations: A Dual-Coding Approach. New York: Oxford University Press.

Pelton, F. L., & Pelton, T. (2009). The Learner as Teacher: Using Student Authored Comics to “Teach” Mathematics Concepts. In G. Siemens & C. Fulford (Eds.), Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 2009--World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia &Telecommunications (pp. 1591-1599). Honolulu, HI, USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Salihu, L., & Aro, M., & Räsänen, P. (2018). Children with learning difficulties in mathematics: Relating mathematics skills and reading comprehension. Issues in Educational Research, 28 (4), 1024-1038. Retrieved from http://www.iier.org.au/iier28/salihu.pdf

Schmidt, S. R., (2002). The humour effect: Differential processing and privileged retrieval, Memory, 10(2), 127-138. https://doi.org/10.1080/09658210143000263

Schmidt, S., & Williams, A. (2001). Memory for humorous cartoons. Memory and Cognition, 29(2), 305-311. https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03194924

Segrist, D. J., & Jupp, S. D. (2015). This class is a joke? Humor as a pedagogical tool in the teaching of psychology. Psychology Teacher Network: American Psychological Association, 25, 14–15.

Shmakov, P., & Hannula, M.S. (2010) Humour as means to make mathematics enjoyable. In V. Durand-Guerrier, S. Soury-Lavergne, & F. Arzarello (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth Congress of the European Society for Research in Mathematics Education (pp. 144-153). Retrieved from http://www.inrp.fr/editions/cerme6

Sloan, W. M. (2009). No laughing matter: Comic books have serious educational value. Education Update, 51(10), 1-3, 7.

Smith, P. L., Goodmon, L. B., Howard, J. R., Hancock, R, Hartzell, K. A. & Hilbert, S. E. (2019). Graphic novelisation effects on recognition abilities in students with dyslexia. Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, 1-18. https://doi.org/10.1080/21504857.2019.1635175

Sousa, C., & Schneiderman, J. (1986). Preschoolers and superheroes—A dangerous duo. Early Years, 17, 75–77.

Steenbrugge, H. V., Valcke, M., & Desoete, A. (2010). Mathematics learning difficulties in primary education: teachers’ professional knowledge and the use of commercially available learning packages. Educational Studies, 36(1), 59-71. https://doi.org/10.1080/03055690903148639

Symons, C. S., & Johnson, B. T. (1997). The self-reference effect in memory: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 121(3), 371–394. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0033-2909.121.3.371

Toh, T.L. (2009). Use of cartoons and comics to teach algebra in mathematics classrooms. In Martin, D., Fitzpatrick, T., Hunting, R., Itter, D., Lenard, C., Mills, T., Milne, L. (Ed.), Mathematics Of Prime Importance: MAV Yearbook 2009 (pp. 230 - 239). Melbourne: The Mathematical Association of Victoria.

Toh, T. L., Chan, C. M. E., Cheng, L. P., Lim, K. M., & Lim, L. H. (2018). Use of comics and its adaptation in the mathematics classroom. In P.C. Toh, & B.L. Chua (eds.), Mathematics instruction: Goals, tasks and activities (pp. 67-86). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1142/9789813271678_0005

Toh, T. L., Cheng, L. P., Ho, S. Y., Jiang, H., & Lim, K. M. (2017). Use of comics to enhance students’ learning for the development of the 21st century competencies in the mathematics classroom. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 37(4), 437-452. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02188791.2017.1339344

Toh, T. L., Cheng, L. P., Jiang, H., & Lim, K. M. (2016). Use of comics and storytelling in teaching mathematics. In P. C. Toh, & B. Kaur (Eds.), Developing 21st Century Competencies in the Mathematics Classroom, Yearbook 2016, Association of Mathematics Educators (pp. 241-260). Singapore: World Scientific Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1142/9789813143623_0013

Toh, T. L., Cheng, L. P., Lim, L. H., & Lim, K. M. (2019). Shopaholics needs mathematics too! Teacher and student perceptions of the use of comics to teach percentage. Australian Mathematics Education Journal, 1(1), 17-23. https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=338697223376888;res=IELHSS

Toh, T. L., & H. W. E. Lui. (2014). Helping Normal Technical Students with Learning Mathematics - A Preliminary Survey. Learning Science and Mathematics Online Journal, 2014(1), 1-10.

Van Steenbrugge H., Valcke, M., & Desoete, A. (2010). Mathematics learning difficulties in primary education: Teachers’ professional knowledge and the use of commercially available learning packages. Educational Studies, 36(1), 59-71. https://doi.org/10.1080/03055690903148639

Whyte, J. & Anthony, G. (2012). Maths anxiety: The fear factor in the mathematics classroom. New Zealand Journal of Teachers' Work, 9(1), 6-15.

Williams, R. M. (2008). Image, text, and story: Comics and graphic novels in the classroom. Art Education, 61(6), 13-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/00043125.2008.11652072

Worthy, J., Moorman, M., & Turner, M. (1999). What Johnny likes to read is hard to find in school. Reading Research Quarterly, 34, 12-27. https://doi.org/10.1598/RRQ.34.1.2

Ziv, A. (1988). Teaching and learning with humor. Journal of Experimental Education, 57, 5-15. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220973.1988.10806492

Article Metrics

Abstract view(s): 782 time(s)
PDF: 714 time(s)


  • There are currently no refbacks.