Three action figures standing together with linked arms

Affinity Maps


Activity aim: To foster low-stakes group discussion; to review; to encourage synthesis and / or new connections

Materials needed
: Pieces of scrap paper, post-it notes, or cards (if scrap paper or cards, you’ll also need tape).

Time estimated:
This can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on how many rotations you decide to incorporate and whether you do the extension activity.

Activity description:

Put students in groups of 5 or so. Each group gets a stack of pieces of paper / post-it notes. At first, they should work alone, and the instructor should ask an open-ended question:

“In what ways would we need to use math to plan an end-of-semester party?”

Give an example: “we need math to decide how many pizzas to buy.” It doesn’t need to be more complicated than this at this point.

Students should fill as many scraps of paper with sentences like this as possible and then stick them to the wall closest to their group. The instructor might stick a few pre-made notes on the board, too, or encourage students as he / she monitors.

When each group has a sizable amount of post-its, the instructor should ask students to group the sentences into categories. The students should figure out the categories, but the instructor could give an example:

tasks that require mostly algebra
tasks that require mostly addition
tasks that require mostly decimal-to-fraction conversion
tasks that require an equal amount of two or more functions

When students have finished this task, they can rotate to the next group. If two groups finish earlier than the others, they can trade places. In the new group, students should try to guess the categories that the group has made.

If you have time to rotate again, students could rotate to another group and perform the same task.

Extension idea: At the end of the rotations, students should sit down. Individually, they should each choose a post-it note from the wall by the cluster that they’re near (but they shouldn’t tell anyone which one they chose, and they should leave the notes where they are). Students should write an equation that would help someone who was planning the end-of-semester party to figure out. Students can then trade equations and match the one that they have to the post-it note in their cluster. Would this equation work?

Photo credit: JD Hancock