Have we forgotten the power of concept cartoons?

2 min read

Cartoons may be reminiscent of an older generation, or of over-simplified storylines from our childhood, but using them as a teaching tool can be incredibly useful for teaching, learning and assessment.

While there are plenty of cartoons we don’t recommend using in class, concept cartoons are one of the key items you should have in your teaching arsenal.

What is a concept cartoon?

A concept cartoon is a drawing which presents multiple ideas about a topic: for example, subtraction. Some of the ideas could be “subtracting always makes a number smaller”, “subtracting a positive number from a negative number makes the number bigger”, and “subtracting means the same as ‘finding the difference’”.

When these ideas are presented, children can use them as a stimulus to talk about prior knowledge and/or misconceptions.

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Why are concept cartoons useful?

Concept cartoons can be used at any point in a teaching sequence: you may want to use them at the beginning of a unit, or part way through, to check on understanding and identify misconceptions. You could also use them at the end of a unit as an assessment tool.

At this time of year, you may want to use them to check your pupils’ understanding and form the basis for suggested revision topics. Using talk in the classroom is incredibly powerful for both the children and the teacher. Presenting children with concept cartoons allows them to talk about their ideas and discuss opinions, including those who may normally be reluctant to participate.

How to use concept cartoons

Have a look at our DoodleMaths Concept Cartoons page and create your own cartoon based on your current maths unit. Hand them out and ask children to either comment on each statement or to show which one they agree with and provide a reason for their choice. Model how to fill out the reasoning board and show which statements they agree or disagree with, and then provide children with the tools to test their theories.

Once children have completed their reasoning boards, ask your class to share their ideas and see how many of them have changed their minds from the beginning: it may be worth reiterating that changing your mind is not going to be seen as a negative!  


Do you use concept cartoons in class? What have you found to be the most effective way of using them? 

Article by Emma Hall

Doodle empowers learners to achieve confidence in maths and English. Our intelligent technology creates individual work programmes which are motivational, affordable and convenient to use.