A lingering cliché tied to education is the description of subjects like math as boring, a topic of study done to complete graduation requirements than for any enjoyable purpose. It’s untrue because math, like any subject, has ardent fans and because it’s not necessarily the subject matter that’s the issue; rather, it’s how the material is presented that’s important.
Take, for example, the Coloring Squared books created by Gilbert resident Cameron Krantzman, which are an amalgamation of basic mathematical concepts and the simple joys of coloring.
Anyone who spent a few hours as a kid coloring those paint-by-numbers pictures has a familiarity with the gist of the idea. The page is filled with numbers which correspond with a certain color — yellow could be the number one, red the number two and so on — and the painter fills in each spot with the corresponding paint color until a picture arises.
Krantzman took that as the basis for his books and replaced the numbers with an answer to a question within the box. Take the image of a volcano on the Coloring Squared website: to come up with the right picture, students have to answer multiplication problems and use the correct color for the answer. An incorrect answer leads to an incorrect color and thus creates a painting that appears wonky, and a lesson to boot.
“It makes it (learning) more engaging and more rigorous,” he said.
Paintings include dinosaurs, ballerinas, penguins and even a few familiar characters from pop culture. The one thing they all have in common though is the quality of the image, as the pictures have a rather strong 8-bit Nintendo vibe.
“Basically my entire life has been defined by my love of video games,” Krantzman said, citing the “Mario Bros.” games as an example.
Krantzman said he began working on this project back when he was a teacher at a charter school in Mesa a decade ago. The idea came from those paint-by-number books and a goal to create compelling learning aids for his students.
His learning tool, however, took on a much larger following, and he ended up devoting more of his time to Coloring Squared and officially launched it as a company in January 2013.
The last year-and-a-half has seen the company’s page views jump to 3 million and he said approximately 2,000 teachers across the Valley use the painting packets he created. One of those teachers is Paideia Academy kindergarten teacher Bobbie Waldron, who has used the books in her classroom for approximately a year.
She calls the Coloring Squared books, “fun, but still academic,” and said they heighten her students’ number recognition. The books also provide her a means of measuring her students’ performance and emphasize what they need to focus on in class.
“I’m able to look at that and say ‘OK, we’re having a hard time recognizing threes,’ ” she said.
Creating the booklets as they are now was a bit of a trial-and-error process for Krantzman, as he said the trick was to find the right blend of balance and entertainment. In other words, the pictures had to provide a challenge for students to learn but couldn’t be too difficult in fear of losing the entertainment value. He said the other lesson came from the design of the pictures.
Krantzman said his Coloring Squared booklets are gaining in popularity and he said he’s getting closer to making it a sustainable business. And it’s not just teachers purchasing the books for the classroom; he said students themselves have snagged copies of the pages at comic book festivals while on summer break.
“They just got out of school and they’re there to have fun, but they get those free pages and have fun,” he said.
Visit coloringsquared.com to learn more about Coloring Squared.
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