More Information on Mind Mapping


Mind mapping is a tool that has its value in research about how the brain works.  The core of this idea is that the brain does not think in words alone.  In fact, it thinks in pictures or symbols rather than words.  The Mind Map is a natural function of the human mind.  It is a powerful graphic technique that can be applied to every aspect of life where improved learning and clearer thinking will enhance performance.

Our brain has at least two different ways of taking and processing information.  One way we process information is in a logical orderly fashion as we do when working math problems and reading a book.  However, when you want to come up with new ideas, and look at how ideas connect with one another we use our brains ability to process information globally, or in no particular order.  This is where mind mapping comes in.   According to Tony Buzan, one of the pioneers in helping people to make the most of their brainpower, the Mind Map has four essential characteristics.

  1. The subject of attention is crystallized in a central image.
  2. The main themes of the image radiate from the central image as branches.
  3. Branches contain a key image or key word printed on an associated line.  Topics of lesser importance or details are also represented as branches to higher level branches.
  4. The branches form a connected structure or pattern.

Mind Mapping takes us from the usual linear (one dimensional) thinking through lateral (two dimensional) thinking to radiant (multidimensional) thinking.

How To Create a Mind Map

Start by selecting a central theme.  Draw a picture or symbol that represents this central theme and place it at the center of the mind map.  You may also use a word that represents that central theme if you wonder whether you may later forget the meaning of the symbol.

Next, draw a branch that represents one aspect of the central theme and label it using words and symbols.  This branch should be drawn fairly thick, kind of like one of the main branches of a tree.(i.e. qualitative observations in the sample below).

Off of this branch should be smaller branches that list and picture the details of the main branch (i.e. sight, hear, smell, touch, taste).

You may then draw other main branches representing other subtopics of the central theme (i.e. quantitative observations) and follow the same procedure for the smaller sub-branches (i.e. mass, volume, temperature, length etc.).  

The simple Mind Map above will show you an example of how this might look.   Ideally, each main branch should be made a different color as this helps to stimulate memory and creativity.  

Use key words in your mapping.  Although it is sometimes difficult, try to put no more than one word per line.  This will get you in the habit of paring down your notes to truly essential elements.  You can easily add other branches that are associated to the first word.  By curving the lines (branches) it becomes easier to write the word in a manner that doesn’t require turning the paper to a different position to read it.  It also gives you a little more room.  Always print words.  It makes them easier to read.

Color is an important part of mind mapping.  The use of color adds another dimension to the map.  Color is used by the brain to help code information.  It also serves as a stimulus to the emotions. Emotions are one of our strongest links to memory recall.  Some colors work better to stimulate memory than others.  Try making each of the main branches a different color.

Symbols are important because they cause us to use much more of our brain capacity.  Learning is a whole-brain activity.  Using symbols helps to stimulate the creative parts of the brain.  It causes students to think about the proper pictures necessary to convey a certain meaning.  Students can cut pictures out of magazines to use as symbols as well as drawing their own.  Using pictures gives our memories a better chance to recall ideas later.

The map below is an example of a way to mind map classification characteristics.  It has been found that using mapping at the end of a unit is a great way to review the important parts of a unit.  There are many different ways you can use Mind Mapping in your classroom.   Your only limit is your imagination. A few examples are: assessment, pre-reading, pre-writing, review – What other ways can you think of to use this strategy both inside and outside of the classroom?