Friday, December 16, 2011

Mind Maps - Why have I never heard of these?

A fellow 7th grade teacher at another middle school emailed me the idea of using a mind map as tool to reflect on the 1st investigation in Comparing and Scaling (CMP).  I wasn't sure of what a "mind map" was so I googled images to get an idea of how to instruct my students on how to make the map.

I realized a mind map was just another way to take notes.  The map allows you to organize your ideas around a central idea and find relationships among all the details/branches.  Instead of creating a handout like this:
 How to Make a Mind Map (website)
1. Take a blank piece of paper, A4 or larger. Blank paper allows 360ยบ of freedom to express the full range of your cortical skills, whereas pre-drawn lines restrict the natural flow of your thoughts.
2. Use the paper in landscape orientation. Words and images have more space in the direction we write, so they don’t bump into margins as quickly.
3. Start in the centre. Thoughts start in the centre of our mental world. The Mind Map page reflects this!
4. Make a central image that represents the topic about which you are writing/thinking:
  • Use at least three colours.
  • Keep the height and width of the central image to approx. 2’’ or 5 cm (proportionately larger for bigger paper).
  • Allow the image to create its own shape (do not use a frame).
A picture is worth a thousand words. It opens up associations, focuses the thoughts, is
fun and results in better recall:

  • Colours stimulate the right cortical activity of imagination as well as capturing and holding attention.
  • This size gives plenty of space for the rest of your Mind Map, while making it large enough to be the clear focus of the topic.
  • The unique shape makes it more memorable and enjoyable. A frame makes the centre a monotony of shape and disconnects the branches.
5. The main themes around the central image are like the chapter headings of a book:
  • Print this word in CAPITALS or draw an image.
  • Place on a line of the same length
  • The central lines are thick, curved and organic i.e. like your arm joining your body, or the branch of a tree to the trunk.
The branch of a Mind Map
  • Connect directly to the central image.
The main themes, connected to the central image on the main branches, allow their relative importance to be seen. These are the Basic Ordering Ideas (BOIs) and aggregate and focus the rest of the Mind Map:
  • Printing (versus cursive) allows the brain to photograph the image thus giving easier reading and more immediate recall.
  • Word length equals line length. An extra line disconnects thoughts, length accentuates the connection.
  • Curved lines give visual rhythm and variety and so are easier to remember, more pleasant to draw and less boring to look at. Thicker central lines show relative importance.
  • Connected to the image because the brain works by association not separated, disconnected lines.
6. Start to add a second level of thought. These words or images are linked to the main branch that triggered them. Remember:
  • Connecting lines are thinner.
  • Words are still printed but may be lower case.
Your initial words and images stimulate associations. Attach whatever word or image is triggered. Allow the random movement of your thought; you do not have to ‘finish’ one branch before moving on:
  • Connected lines create relationships and a structure. They also demonstrate the level of importance, as from a branch to a twig.
  • The size and style of the letters provide additional data about the importance and meaning of the word/image.
7. Add a third or fourth level of data as thoughts come to you:
  • Use images as much as you can, instead of, or in addition to the words.
  • Allow your thoughts to come freely, meaning you ‘jump about’ the Mind Map as the links and associations occur to you.
Your brain is like a multi-handed thought-ball catcher. The Mind Map allows you to catch and keep whatever ‘thought ball’ is thrown by your brain.
8. Add a new dimension to your Mind Map. Boxes add depth around the word or image. To make some important points stand out.
9. Sometimes enclose branches of a Mind Map with outlines in colour:
  • Enclose the shape of the branch and hug the shape tightly.
  • Use different colours and styles.
The outlines will create unique shapes as you find in clouds and will aid your memory:
  • These provide immediate visual linking. They can also encourage follow-up and remind you of action you need to take.
  • They can also show connection between branches by using the same colour outline.
10. Make each Mind Map a little more:
Your eyes and brain will be attracted to your Mind Map:
  • It will be easier to remember.
  • It will be more attractive to you
    (and to others as well).
11. Have fun!

Add a little humour, exaggeration or absurdity wherever you can.
Your brain will delight in getting the maximum use and enjoyment from this process and will therefore learn faster, recall more effectively and think more clearly.
Click HERE to see the site for further information 

Instead - organize your ideas like this! (image from same website above) 

I thought the idea was so cool and decided to try the mind map in class.  The central idea was "compare".  I gave the students the four branches for compare - ratio, fraction, percent, and difference.  Because this was the first map and they weren't sure what they were doing giving the branches were appropriate.  In the future I would like for them to come up with the branches on their own.  

Check out these BEAUTIES! 

 Here are some Maps done in groups (we did it first in groups of four)

These were the only two maps that were successfully completed in 30 minutes.  I heard a lot of whining that day about how the map was "too hard". 

I started the 2nd investigation in the book and was still interested in doing a mind map again.  The investigation was all about determining if students were using a "part to part" or "part to whole" comparison.  Since they gained more experience with the ratio and fraction branches I figured it would be a good idea to try it again but this time individually.  Students drew these maps in their notebooks and I told them they would have a chance to add more details as we worked through the rest of the book.

Some students took "branches" literally and drew their map as a tree.

I really like this idea to help students organize and value the ideas that they have developed throughout the year.  I really hope to find more concepts that can be "mapped" out so I can do this more often!

Happy Friday!


  1. This is great and I can't wait to try it out when we head back to school. Although, I CAN wait to go back to school. I'm glad I found your blog so I nominated you for the Liebster Award! Go check out my blog for more details & to see your shout out! :)


  2. This is so helpful! I love mind maps but haven't been doing them much this year. Thanks for re-inspiring me!


  3. I love your blog! I gave you award over on mine :) Check it out!
    Thanks for sharing so much on your blog!


  4. Thanks for always sharing your ideas with other teachers. I wanted to pass along the Versatile Blogger Award to you!

    Come over to my blog (Caught in the Middle) to accept your award!


  5. I gave you the Versatile Blogger Award as well! You lucky ducky! Thanks for all that you blog!


  6. Thank you for all the information. I googled mind maps and a link led me to your post here. . .can't wait to try this in the fall!

  7. Great work! Giving mind map skills to kids is like giving them a gift for the future. I'm doing the same in Belgian schools. You can find some examples and stories on my blog Keep going ...