ELKHART Instead of textbooks, students in Jim McClain's 7th grade math class at Pierre Moran are using comic books to solve math problems.
Solution Squad is a team of teenagers, created by McClain, with illustration help from his niece, Rose. The characters were designed with students in mind. Each squad member has unique features like different heights, hair color and shape.
McClain uses the comic as supplementary material in his class. The heroic helpers compliment the state standards and requirements for ISTEP.
"In my own classroom, it's been very well received," said McClain. "There are times when after several weeks of it kids will get tired of it, but it's not all we do. It's not the main instructional focus."
Solution Squad was developed after a lifelong passion for graphic novels.
"I've always wanted to make a comic book," said McClain. "I wanted to make comic books from the time I was just a little kid."
McClain started by substituting typical "Dick and Jane" work sheets with "Clark and Bruce" action packed activities instead. Over ten years, McClain had so many work sheets, he figured it would be enough to compile into a comic book, with his own original characters.
So far, the Solution Squad has been a big hit. Seventh grade students say the comic helps bring life to a sometimes-boring subject.
"I would say the Solution Squad is very unique and one of a kind," said 7th grader Maya Zelaya. "The other thing that is unique is their symbols on their shirts represent what they do."
Another 7th grader, Kechad Woods says using something kids already enjoy can make math exciting.
"My favorite character is Radical," said Woods. "He gets to travel through time using powers."
Thanks to a $10,000 Lilly Foundation grant, for the first time in 20 years, McClain will not be teaching summer school. Instead, he'll focus on the Solution Squad, developing the team into an interactive web comic that teachers across the world can access.
"It's going to be an all-encompassing project that is immersive for teachers and students alike," said McClain.
The comic is currently available online, and McClain says thanks to exposure at national conventions, his creations have traveled around the world.
To preview or purchase Solution Squad, or to learn more visit the website.