Mr. Oaks, the math teacher

This is a guest post by Mr. Oaks, who is a teacher at Oakland University. We would like to thank him for investing time to explain how mind mapping is useful to him.


Using Mindomo in the Mathematics Classroom


Teaching developmental mathematics can be a very difficult task sometimes.

Many students who take these classes need to learn more than just math. They need to learn life and study skills. One of these very important skills is organization. However, from past experience I have realized that checking off that a student is bringing a binder or other certain items to class does no justice to the student in terms of trying to teach these skills.

If the student does it, it is likely that the student did not actually need to be taught organization skills, or that the student is just following through because it is a course requirement. Other students may not do anything at all.

So, in the next class, when the instructor does not require any organization, it is highly likely that the student goes back to previous habits and my effort to help the student with organization was all for nothing. In comes Mindomo.

After reflecting on my efforts to help my students, I realized that organization might not be able to be taught without changing the way that the student thinks.

And before using Mindomo, I really had no idea how my students think. Let me give you an example. This past semester I asked my students to create a Mindomo Mind Map on any mathematics topic of their choice. Not surprisingly, many of them chose ‘Order of Operations’. In class I highly stress that they should not use the mnemonic PEMDAS because it appears that there are actually six steps, when in fact there are only four steps. So, instead, I recommend the use of GEMS (Grouping Symbols, Exponents, Multiplication/Addition, and Subtraction).

When the Mind Maps came in, what I realized is that not a single one of my students mentioned GEMS on their Mind Map. All of them were still using PEMDAS. So, Mindomo really helped me to realize that there is a disconnection between the notes that the students are taking in class and what they are actually thinking.

So, would I use Mindomo with my students again in the future?

Of course I would. I gained so much insight about how my students think through doing this project that there is nothing that I would trade for this knowledge. This was definitely an experience that has opened up my eyes and helped me to realize how out of touch I can sometimes be in the classroom. Using Mindomo is just one of the many Internet-based tools that can help me bring organizational skills into the twenty-first century for my students. And for that, I am extremely grateful.

My hope is that any instructor who uses Mindomo with their students has a similar mind-opening experience and can learn something about how and what their students are thinking.

Twitter: @jjoaks

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