MSNBC: Bam! How comics teach science

30 11 2011

I sincerely wish that someone would pass a law making it illegal to include sound effects like “bam” and “pow” in the headlines of comic book related news stories. That said, this is a pretty good article!

– dEV

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By Alan Boyle

Can you really learn relativity from a comic book? The Japanese have been using manga for decades to teach complex subjects, and now Americans are doing it too.

No Starch Press, a San Francisco publishing house, puts out awhole line of manga-style books on math and science, picked up from the original Japanese and translated for the American market. Yes, there’s a “Manga Guide to Relativity,” as well as calculus, linear algebra, biochemistry and other head-banging subjects.

The plot lines may sound sappy to grown-ups. Usually they involve a cute schoolgirl or schoolboy who’s challenged by an equally cute teacher to master a seemingly impenetrable subject. But Bill Pollock, the founder and president of No Starch Press, says the books get the job done, especially for students who are at a crucial age for math and science education.

“We’re not out to publish the best manga ever,” Pollock told me. “The manga is a vehicle.”

"The Manga Guide to the Universe" by No Starch Press

Educational comics are nothing new, of course: Classics Illustrated, for example, was delivering comic-book versions of English lit and science class back in the ’50s. (I still get the heebie-jeebies when I recall the Classics Illustrated version of “Jane Eyre” that sat in the comic-book box at Grandma’s house.) More recently, cartoonist Larry Gonick has been using the comic-book format to explain subjects ranging from chemistry to physics to sex. This year, one of the items on my holiday book list is “Feynman,” a graphic-novel biography of the bongo-playing physicist.

But manga books come from a different cultural tradition — the same tradition that spawned Pokemon, Hello Kitty and other Japanese imports that American kids have grown up with. In Japan, there’s a manga subgenre (“gakushu manga”) that is completely focused on education. These books, which range around 200 pages in length, are the ones that have been adapted into English-language “manga guides.”

(Full Story)

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/29/9094878-bam-how-comics-teach-science

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