By Hannah Jorgensen
As I read Solution Squad, I had a vivid flashback to little 5th grade Hannah sitting in a classroom learning math. I can clearly remember learning about prime numbers and factors out of the workbooks that we always had to use and which I loathed with all of my small being.
In fact, most of my elementary school math memories are not remembered fondly. Staring at a board looking at numbers that I couldn’t picture in the same way that a book allowed me to imagine things fatigued me. I simply never liked math, but reading Solution Squad makes me wonder if I might’ve liked it more had my teacher’s approach to teaching the subject been a little bit more fun.
This book, a collection of several Solution Squad comics, one illustrated prose story, lesson plans and more, is creative in how it combines a classic superhero comic with mathematic principles. The heroes are living embodiments of various mathematical concepts, which makes learning the concepts they encounter fun and accessible to kids. Topics like prime numbers, train problems, the four steps of problem solving, and the coordinate system among others are exemplified through storylines that are engaging and fun to read.
The heroes are clever personifications of math concepts. Absolutia can raise or lower temperature, symbolizing positive and negative numbers, and absolute value being the energy spent no matter the direction. In one character, the comic effectively demonstrates what I remember being the frustrating and hard to understand concept of negative numbers.
It is more than just a character explaining the mathematical concept, but rather an active demonstration of it so that kids can effectively picture it. Kids have a way to picture absolute value and what it truly means, instead of teachers just saying its any number without it’s negative sign, and that being that. Instead of being told, kids get to see. And that is just one character. The book is filled with clever applications of math like this.
USING SOLUTION SQUAD IN THE CLASSROOM
- MATH: These comics are great for use as a supplement in a math curriculum. While there aren’t enough issues to exclusively teach an entire math course through the comics, they are highly helpful for the topics that are covered, like prime numbers and basic algebra. The book comes with ready-made lesson plans to use in conjunction with the comics in a classroom.
- INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH: Or, consider crossing over into other disciplines. The focus of the comics is of course math, but elements of storytelling and other literary conventions are present and worth analyzing as well. Comics are a great way to introduce kids to analyzing literature, and this comic is no different.
- DIVERSITY: These comics are incredibly inclusive in their portrayals of different genders and races. One comic contains a moment where the team’s assumption of a villain’s gender causes them to be unable to solve the mystery until the assumption is challenged. This type of casual moment promoting inclusion and very literally challenging assumptions is important in the continued promotion of tolerance and acceptance in schools and in our lives in general.
Young, small Hannah would’ve loved this book in a classroom. By combining visual elements with mathematic principles the book effectively makes learning math more fun and interesting than any workbook ever could, which could inspire children to not look at math as something boring but a whole other world worthy of interest.
Any math teacher looking to engage students in a new way and make math more enjoyable and easy to visualize should consider using Solution Squad as a tool in your STEM curriculum.