How to use thinking maps?

Would you like your child to learn math or any other subject, and remember them years from now? Quite difficult to believe, yet with thinking maps it can happen. The students can visualize clearly the concepts, linking them to their present knowledge base, and continually adding on to it. Thinking Maps® are more effective in teaching content, especially in math, for their flexibility enable them to link strategies with more complex situations.

Research support for Thinking Maps®

Do you know that many schools and universities in the United States are using the thinking maps? Many of these institutions as well as their heads are all praises for these visual tools. Cindy Scott, assistant principal of the Brunswick County Public Schools, said “Although we realize that a combination of factors led to our success this past year, the staff believes that the use of Thinking Maps® played a critical role” (Research on Thinking Maps, 1996). Margaret Fain Elementary School in Atlanta of Georgia showed “dramatic improvement in test scores’ of students was observed when the Thinking Maps® program was implemented there. From 32 percent math scores in 1994, the test results increased to 63 percent after the program was implemented in 1995 (K123456789101112). The scores in reading, writing and math in East Burke Middle School increased by more than 15 percentage points in three years after the use of the Thinking Maps® (Creating Change Inc, 2005). The Carl Waitz

Elementary School in Mission, Texas showed an increase in math scores from 41.2 percent to 76.5 percent. The A.T. Allen Elementary School in Cabarrus Co., NC showed an increase in math test scores from 80 to 91 percent in 1998 when Thinking Maps® were used by the students (K123456789101112).

MacIntyre (2002) found out that after a whole of year of using Thinking Maps®, the students, both exceptional and regular ones, showed developmental gains in math of up to four years’ growth. It was observed that more profound change happened among students who did not use the tool previously. Out of the 133 low-achieving students, 71 showed proficiency on the first trial. These are only a few of the many researches found to have displayed significant gains in math, reading and science scores once they have used the Thinking Maps®.

Brent Hoy, a trained trainer and principal of Montgomery Elementary School in Texas, said that Thinking Maps® is the better practice than graphic organizers for it work at all grade levels in all subjects. Lynn Marso of the Project SUCCESS in Glendale, California has this to say “Thinking Maps provide all teachers and students a common language for meaningful learning. They are highly effective learning tools for ALL students at ALL levels in ALL content areas” (Thinking Maps Inc.a, 2004).

A fifth grader from New York City Public Schools had this to say about it, “Thinking Maps help me because they enable me to get my thought written so I don’t forget them. The Maps stimulate your brain because your brain is constantly being forced to think. You are able to study your own thoughts and

think about how the things you wrote are either vital or not important. Thinking Maps are also good because you are able to thoroughly learn about something” (Thinking Maps Inc.a, 2004).

Use of Thinking Maps® among Hispanic students, English language learners and students of low socio-economic status was also effective (Thinking Maps Inc., 2004). Even among returning college students after a long hiatus, or nurses and other professionals who took their board exams, Thinking Maps® were of big help (MacIntyre, 2002).

And the positive results go on and on. Is it not amazing? You may ask, what exactly are thinking maps? What’s so special about them? How come they are able to achieve these significant gains in learning which cut across subjects, students, professionals, schools and the like?

The Concept of Thinking Maps®

Thinking maps are “visual teaching tools that foster and encourage lifelong learning. They’re based on a simple yet profound insight: The one common instructional thread that binds together all teachers from pre-kindergarten through postgraduate, is that they all teach the same thought processes” (Thinking Maps Inc b, 2004). They have five qualities, namely developmental, integrative, flexible, consistent and reflective (Thinking Maps Inc. b, 2004). It was created by David Hyerle in 1988 when he was writing “Expand Your Thinking”, with Upton Model as a guide. In 1994, test results showed that Thinking Maps® significantly affect standardized and qualitative measures of student performance (Thinking Maps Inc. c, 2004).

There are eight Thinking Maps® which correspond to man’s eight fundamental thinking processes. For example, one process a kindergarten does is sorting or grouping. This can be termed as categorizing when one grows older. This is the thought process of classification, which is one of the eight distinct Thinking Map processes. These can be related to the eight intelligences of man which are logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, body-kinesthetic, musical, intrapersonal, interpersonal and naturalist as espoused by Howard Gardner (OCCI, 2006). According to Holly Tree School, Thinking Maps integrate thinking skills and mapping techniques (Thinking Maps, b). The basic mental operations of perceiving, processing and evaluating information are used in this concept. These techniques can help students in learning, from developing “good writing skills” to understanding math concepts and developing the corresponding skills (Thinking Maps)

The Eight Thinking Maps® are circle, bubble, double bubble, brace, tree, flow, multi-flow and bridge maps (Thinking Maps). They are briefly described below.

Circle Maps are tools used to help define a thing or an idea. It is used to brainstorm ideas, and at the same showing prior knowledge about the idea, thing or topic. It utilizes two circles. The subject for definition is in the inner circle, and the descriptors of said subject are within the outer circle.

Bubble Maps describe qualities of a thing or idea using adjectives ("sparkle words") and adjective phrases. The center circle contains the item to be described. From this circle, it is connected to outer circles that hold the adjectives or adjective phrases describing the item.

Double Bubble Maps are used in comparing and contrasting persons, things, and ideas. Just like a Venn diagram, two items written in two center circles are compared. Outside bubbles show qualities of only one object, and these are the contrasting qualities. The center bubbles which connect to both center circles are similarities of the two objects under study.

Tree Map is used in classifying and grouping things or ideas. The ideas are sorted by categories or groups. These categories can be broken further into sub groupings. The number of groups or categories can be many, limited only perhaps to the persons’ knowledge or experience.

Brace Maps show relationships between the whole physical object and its parts. They are used to analyze structure of an object. The object under study is written on a line to the left. The lines within the first brace to the right contain the major parts of the object, and the succeeding brace(s) carry the finer parts of each major part.

Flow Maps show sequence and order in a process. They identify relationships between stages and sub-stages of a particular event, be it mathematical operations, manufacturing steps, procedures, protocols and the like. Flow maps can be used to explain the order of events. They use rectangles.

The big rectangle is the event in focus. The small rectangles within the big one contain the step or process involved in the said event, in sequence, that is, from first to the last step.

Multi-Flow Map represents the cause and effect of an event. It studies the cause or causes of an event, and its results/effects. It helps a person concretize the ‘why’ and ‘consequences’ of a particular event. It uses rectangles. The event under study is in the middle. The causes are to the left, and the consequences are in the right of the event.

Bridge Maps are useful in finding analogies in relationships. They help find similarities in relationships. The bridges can be as many as the relating factors identified in the relationship.

Thinking Maps® can be used in teaching all subjects. They can also be used in the workplace or by professionals reviewing for board exams. The materials which comprise the thinking maps include “Our tools for learning manual” is the primary resource in teaching thinking maps®. The training for trainers manual is used for teaching others to become trainers of the Thinking Maps®. It also has Thinking Maps® software which is used to enhance student’s thinking skills. It’s use is licensed under Innovative Learning Group. At present, “over 2,000 schools from across the United States have received in-depth training and follow-up on thinking maps. These thinking maps are already in use in Singapore and New Zealand” (Thinking Maps Inc. d, 2004)

Thinking Maps are visual teaching tools that promote and reinforce lifelong learning. They are based on the eight thought processes of man, which can also be related to the eight intelligences of man.

Students from kindergarten up to postgraduate courses have learned significantly across subjects, including math, using the Thinking Maps. They are also used by professionals in their review for board exams. Testimonials from students, school administrators and teachers are all praises about the maps seeing the gains made by the students.

Previously, students learn only by linear listing of information. However, recent findings show that the brain is a pattern detector. It organizes the world by constructing patterns and making sense of visual images, absorbed by the brain at a rate of 36,000 images per hour (Hyrle, D). Thinking maps are visual tools that can be used in making sense of these patterns. They increase the understanding of content in math and other subjects as well. Are you not interested to use thinking maps? 

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