STEM Comics: Saving Students One Thought Bubble at a Time

By Amie Wright, MyLibraryNYC
April 16, 2014

If only Manga Math had existed when I struggled through Calculus. The only solace at that time was the introduction of the high tech (for its era) graphing calculator.

Luckily, students today do not have to struggle without vivid, informative, and engaging graphics to guide them through almost every STEM-related subject imaginable, from the trickiest math conundrum to learning about string theory. Here are some of our favorites for students in Grades K-12...

STEM Graphic Series

The Manga Guide to Calculus

Manga Guide to... Graphic nonfiction guides to a range of science and math subjects including statistics, physics, electricity, and linear algebra. These guides work for grades 6 and up; many guides are also great tools for adult learners—if only they had a 'Manga Guide to Doing Your Taxes'....

Manga Math Mysteries: Math mysteries told within a fictional narrative format. Each title has a math theme (ex. whole numbers, division) and the characters must utilize this theme to solve the mystery. These titles are part of the Graphic Universe series from Lerner, which includes other science titles as well as titles for Social Studies (such as the award winning Little White Duck: A Childhood in China).

Graphic Libraryseries from Capstone cover a variety of science topics through a variety of formats from straight ahead informational text to the Max Axoim: STEM Adventures, narrated by scientist/adventurer/superhero Max Axiom to the new series Batman Science, which includes titles like The Science Behind Batman's Body Armor. Graphic Library are also available as ebooks, and in Spanish.

Squish series by Jennifer Holm: Squish, the loveable amoeba—teaching kids science... without them knowing it!

Dinosaurs: In the Beginning : the first in a new series from PaperCutz introducing a library favorite (dinosaurs) in a new graphic format for young readers and fans of Geronimo Stilton.

STEM Graphic Standalone Titles

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel: a beautiful and faithful adaption of a classroom classic that brings to visual life the mathematical and scientific concepts discussed in the text.

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb: a graphic novel for those who doubt the veracity and strength of the graphic format and genre; this text, like the 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation from Ernie Colon and Sid Jacobson, distils complex informational text in an accessible, and ultimately shattering, way—visually depicting the human impact of the bomb on its creators and its victims.

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout: part art book, part graphic, this haunting look into the love story, the research, and the subsequent deaths of Marie and Pierre Curie is an exquisite look into both the genius—and fallout—of science.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas: nonfiction biography about Louis Leakey's 'Angels'—the three women sent out to study chimps, gorillas, and orangutans, and whose research changed much of what we know of primate behavior. Also includes little known facts about life in the field—Leakey insisted that they all have their appendix removed before travel; Galdikas refused—and luckily her appendix never burst.

Meanwhile : a choose your own math adventure... that kids actually like? Yes!

Why use comics or graphic novels to teach STEM?

Many studies (like this one from the University of Oklahoma and this one from CBE Life Sciences Education) have shown that many students learn concepts in deeper depth when given a text with graphics versus a text-only book. One medical professor even uses comics as tool to better help his students understand patients and diagnosis.

Need more reasons? The new Common Core State Standards call for students to learn topics in greater depth, exploring topics from multiple angles -- including using multiple formats and range of texts, such as graphic novels. Want to know more about using Comics and Graphic Novels in a Common Core-aligned classroom? Check out the presentation NYPL participated in for New York Comic Con 2013, 'Comics and the Common Core.'

Check out our full booklist of STEM Comics on Encore.