Thanksgiving is fast approaching. For many students and teachers, this also means that final exams are just around the corner. Mind maps are a simple but powerful tool that can help students learn and review. Here’s a brief introduction to this trending technique as well as an example mind map for PCR.
What are Mind Maps?
Mind maps are a graphical way to represent connected ideas and concepts. They typically have a main idea in the center of the map and multiple branches with subtopics and important information radiating outwards.
Mind maps can range from quickly sketched notes to intricate and beautiful illustrations. However, the most powerful mind maps are the ones you create yourself! This is because the process of building a map helps the maker sort out and learn the information (almost) as much as seeing the final product.
Benefits of Mind Maps
If you haven’t yet used mind maps in your classroom here are six reasons to give them a try:
- They help with memorization. Visuals are a great way to store information in our minds. In one study researchers found that mind maps, in particular, helped increase memory retention by 10-15%.
- They’re engaging. Students learn through action. (One reason why experiments are such a great teaching tool.) During mind mapping, learners are actively involved as they brainstorm ideas and create connections.
- They’re creative. No two mind maps of a subject will look the same. As the exam crunch comes with its onslaught of term memorization and flashcards, mind maps can be a great change of pace that still involves studying.
- They’re a way to see what you don’t know. How? Spend a few minutes sketching a mind map from memory and then take a step back. The empty parts of the map are where to focus your attention.
- They promote meaningful learning. Mind maps are created by connecting disparate terms. This not only requires acquiring and recalling knowledge (i.e. rote learning) but also connecting that knowledge to other pieces of information.
- They’re great for writing. In a 2009 study, one group of students had weekly in-class writing assignments while another group also used mind mapping. At the end of the semester, the latter had paragraphs that were better organized and had more relevant details than the control group. Fearing those essay questions? Mind map.
Ready to try it yourself?
How to Mind Map
Mind mapping is powerful but simple.
- Begin with the main topic in the center of the page.
- Add branches to main the topic.
- Add subbranches as you continue to explore and recall the subject.
For a more detailed how-to guide check out Simple Mind Mind Map Basics.
And here are some useful tips.
- Use size changes. Create lines of different thicknesses and emphasize key terms with big letters or with upper case.
- Keep the word count down.
- Use pictures, symbols, keywords, and short phrases when possible.
- Don’t be afraid to doodle.
- Use color. Each branch network can be a specific color or you can use a different color code.
- Keep it simple.
But because a picture is worth a thousand words here’s the promised example: a mind map of the key biotechnology PCR.
Share your mapping “results” with us! And good luck studying.