How to Integrate Math into Geography

Everyone’s getting back into the schooling groove. So twitter is filled with questions like Cara’s:

And since my world revolves around math, here are my thoughts.

Use the Four Color Theorem (but don’t say it out loud).

The Four Color Theorem says that if you only have four crayons, you’re good to color your map and not have any colors touching. (That’s the he kiddo version of the theorem.)

So get out your google and print out some map coloring pages.¬†Choose ones with lots of borders. (As fun as it is to color Texas as a whole, use a map of Texas’s counties.)

Caution: don’t tell the children they’ll be using math. Let them figure it out.

Now it’s coloring time!

And here’s the challenge: color the map with as few colors as possible so that no two touching territories have the same color.

While they color, you can talk about the names of the locations and some of the details. Even have them label them.

Once they finish coloring, have them remember how few colors they used.

Next time you talk about this map, ask them to use one less color than they did before. Continue labeling and discussing the locations.

After a while they’ll figure out that they can’t do it with three, but they can do it with four.

From the Texas Environmental Education Providers
(how cool is that!)

Shower, rinse, repeat.

Kids are experimental. And they don’t believe that what works once, automatically works again (that’s why they drop Cheerios on the floor over and over and over again).

So you can do this with the next map when you’re ready to go to another part of the world.

Indeed, they’ll eventually figure out that four is the magic number. Then they can google it and learn all about the theorem!

How about it? Did it work? Share your experiences in the comments.

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