Boston Just Made A Radical Change To The Maps That Children Will See In School

"Goodbye, old map of the world."

Boston Public Schools have decided to show students what Planet Earth actually looks like.

A new initiative being pushed by a network of 125 institutions is making use of Peters projection maps standard, as they give a more realistic view of countries' proportional sizes. Although Mercator projection maps are more commonly used, they are 400 years old and grossly distort the size of continents like Africa.


Can you spot the difference between the sizes of landmasses on this more proportional Peters map...

Wikimedia / Strebe

... and the landmasses on the Mercator maps you are likely more familiar with?

Stanford's library map of the world using Mercator's projection. Norman B. Leventhal Map Center / Flickr

"These maps offer a more culturally proficient view of the world than the traditional Mercator projection maps, which distorts North America and Europe by representing a greater land area relative to their South American and African counterparts," Boston Public Schools said in a press release.  

The Mercator projection map was developed to map trade routes in 1569. Critics of the Mercator projection have long pointed out its misrepresentations. Greenland, which is 14 times smaller than Africa, appears nearly the same size. Alaska looks bigger than Mexico, when it isn't. Even South America and Europe appear to be about the same size, despite the fact Europe is much smaller. 

Natacha Scott, the social studies director for Boston Public Schools, stands before a massive globe that shows the continent of Africa. Boston Public Schools.

In 1973, German historian Arno Peters created his map projections to display more accurate proportions. Soon after, the United Nations adapted his version of the map.

"By incorporating the Peters projection maps — an equal area representation — into classrooms, we are opening the door for students to view the world in a different light," BPS' History and Social Studies Director Natacha Scott told The Huffington Post. "Taking the time to analyze different map projections will help facilitate conversations about bias in the classroom, allowing students to become more aware of the world around them."

Though it's an improvement, the map still isn't perfect. Because it is a two-dimensional representation of a sphere, it's impossible to correct the previous mistakes without distortions at the poles.

Regardless, Boston students are now getting a more realistic look at the world than they ever have before.

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