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Manga Meets Math To Encourage Learning

Manga fans take note: People who think manga and education are opposites will have to reconsider that opinion if one Osaka textbook company has anything to say about it. Story as reported in the Mainichi Newspaper (J) and TBS News (J).

The Japanese government advisory board that authorizes textbooks for school use just released its recommendations for the coming school year. Among the accepted texts for second-year high school students is one that looks like a comic book, but is actually a serious math textbook.

Interest in math and science among students in Japan has been in decline, so the Osaka-based Keirinkan decided to take a different approach to their textbooks: Combine math and manga to grab students’ attention. Olé!, their first full-on manga textbook—the draft features at least some manga on most of its 183 pages—went before the board this year.

The story is as follows: A group of five classmates find a textbook, but accidentally tear it in half. As is apt to happen to kids who damage things they find in manga, the Greek mathematician Archimedes materializes and proceeds to send them time-slipping to the Pyramids, European palaces, and other exotic times and places.

The various residents—everyone from Native Americans to Samurai warriors—set about teaching the kids math and challenging them with various math problems. If the wayward pupils manage to learn the concepts and answer the questions properly, they can of course get back home.

Their site (J) has a few sample pages of the first-year high school version: page 1, page 2 (AAW translated the bit of dialogue for those who don’t read Japanese).

Hey, it makes as much sense as the plot of most harem stories.

The board was a hard audience, apparently; they took issue with much of the material, and the final version will have about half of the manga content removed, and much of the dialogue changed. The council thought the “tough love” approach was too harsh, and they also indicated that they felt the line between lesson and story was too blurry. The textbook company made some changes, and their revised version may well make it into school curricula next year.

The manga text actually fared better than some others; a more traditional biology text which included such poorly-considered examples as marking wild dragonflies with toxic paint thinner was rejected completely.

The results of the public screening will be on display at the Textbook Research Center though July. A report from TBS news with some dramatization:

Video: Guillotine Closing Of Isayaha Bay

As a follow-up to a previous story about the closing of Isahaya Bay, here is some dramatic video showing the gates closing, as well as clips of the created farmland and the fishermen during a memorial service and protest meeting.