Is North America really bigger than Africa? This map sets things straight

Boston-03/16/2017- Natacha Scott, (cq) Director of History Studies at Bridgewater State Univ. explains the size of countries on a huge 20-foot inflatable globe on display at the Boston Public School Headquarters in Dudley Square. The students from Nathan Hale School, entered the globe and  viewed other maps as part of an effort to show students what the world really looks like.  John Tlumacki/Globe staff(metro)
Natacha Scott used this inflatable globe on display at Boston Public School headquarters on Thursday to explain the size of countries to students from The Nathan Hale School. –John Tlumacki / Boston Globe

For decades, geography teachers have relied on a more than 400-year-old map that grossly distorts the size of the world’s landmasses — the byproduct of trying to depict a sphere on a flat surface and, perhaps, of Colonialism.

The world maps that have hung on school walls in Boston and around the country portray North America as larger than Africa (but it’s not) and Alaska as more mammoth than Mexico (also untrue).

But now, social studies classrooms throughout the Boston Public School system are getting an upgrade some 448 years in the making. On Thursday, about 600 elementary, middle, and high school classrooms received new 24-by-36-inch laminated maps – yes, paper maps and not high-tech, satellite images – in an effort to show students what the world really looks like. The district is swapping out conventional maps for those that more accurately depict the dimensions of continents and countries.


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