Brainstorming is a group process for generating questions, ideas, and examples and is used to illustrate, expand, or explore a central idea or topic. Brainstorming involves students sharing whatever material comes to mind and recording every idea, without making judgments about the material being generated. When introducing a topic, brainstorming can be used for assessing what students already know or wish to learn and for providing direction for learning and reflection. Brainstorming stimulates fluent and flexible thinking and can also extend problem-solving and problem-finding skills.

The teacher/group leader:
  • poses a relevant problem or topic, or elicits one from students;
  • asks students to contribute questions, ideas, or examples spontaneously, emphasizing the importance of quantity over quality of material;
  • ensures that the material is recorded appropriately (e.g., using blackboard, flip charts, slips of paper, colour coding);
  • intervenes if ideas are being evaluated;
  • ensures that a plan for the follow-up use of ideas generated in the brainstorming session is developed.

  • can be used in whole groups or small groups;
  • depends on establishing the comfort level of students to take risks and of teachers to trust students’ unevaluated responses;
  • provides opportunities for teachers to stretch thinking by elaborating on suggested ideas.

Illustrations from the Mathematics Classroom

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