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Student's daily life vs. Mathematical education: the cartoon invades the classroom


Adriano Beluco

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This article aims to highlight the potentialities of exploring factors of the student's daily life in the classroom. From the mass media, more specifically the cartoons, it is possible to use the mathematical argument for the formation of critical consciousness, prioritizing not only the construction of knowledge of students, but also the formation of personality.

Mathematical education is mainly concerned with finding new ways to provide students with a better understanding of the subject, whether through history, computing or even ethnomathematics, to name but a few.

Another way to build a mathematical education is from the student's daily life. Knowing your thinking, knowing what attracts your attention when you are not in school. Rosseau, quoted by Abraham (1977) already warned that "… the educator must know the child."

Research with elementary and high school students showed that the activities that attracted their attention were limited to television (gaining ground with the advent of cable TV), video games, the internet, reading newspapers (sports section, comics and entertainment) and magazines. It is interesting to note that the preferences of these young people, in large part, are constituted by activities related to the mass media, agents that have the power of the message (Beluco, 1998). And, being such influential means, they raise concerns from a pedagogical point of view. After all, many newspaper or magazine articles have a historical or geographical basis, or charts and tables that, if poorly constructed, can distort the facts. We often come across cartoons that contain historical, social, geographical and even mathematical arguments. Therefore, there is a vast universe to be explored in the classroom.

Of course, my attention turned to those cartoons that contained mathematical arguments, motivated by my personal experience.

Next, I will use some to exemplify. Below we can see an example of cartoon, taken from periodicals, whose argument is based on the reproduction of rabbits. Often elementary school children are faced with everyday situations in which they need pre-knowledge to interpret what is presented to them.

Two facts are important for understanding the cartoon: first, knowing the biological predisposition of rabbits for reproduction and then understanding the reasoning for the estimated calculation of the number of rabbits, as a function of time, from the crossing of a couple of rabbits and their young.

The main concern regarding the use of cartoons in the classroom comes from a basic learning mechanism in relation to the media, called projective identification. That is, the moment the child (or even) is reading a cartoon, is learning the concepts that were used for its construction, while having fun.

Figure 1. Animal Mathematics. Bound and Gagged by Danna Summers. Copyright 1991. Cartoon from www.csun.edu/~hcmth014/comicfiles on 05/12/98.