Are Maps Accurate? Boston School Maps Depict Africa Bigger than North America

First created by 19th-century Scottish map maker James Gall and later published by German cartographer Arno Peters in 1974, the Gall-Peters projection distorts the continents' shapes somewhat, but more accurately scales their surface areas.

Turns out, the Mercator Map is not entirely accurate.

The Mercator map has always been considered controversial due to its exaggerated depiction of Europe, which Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator placed in the center of the map, and North America.

The switch to the Gall-Peters Projection sees Boston's public schools follow the lead of the United Nations, which has advocated the map as a more 'fair, ' less Eurocentric representation of the world, as have several aid agencies.

Children in Boston's public schools were introduced to a new world map last week, offering a comparison to the traditional Mercator projection map commonly used in classrooms.

In the Mercator map, which was created in 1569 to help establish and navigate colonial trade routes, numerous world's countries and continents appear warped when compared to their actual size: Alaska is portrayed as larger than Mexico, which is untrue; South America looks the same size as Europe, when it is almost twice as large; and Greenland appears mammoth when compared with Africa, but it is in fact 14 times smaller than the continent. It's important that students trust the material they are given in school but also question it. Colin Rose, Assistant Superintendent of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps for the Boston Public Schools, told The Guardian, "This is the start of a three-year effort to decolonize the curriculum in our public schools..." His map made navigation along colonial trade routes easier, but it puts Germany in the middle instead of the equator and makes Greenland the same size as Africa, when it is 14 times smaller.

The global map on which all your geographical knowledge is based probably wasn't as accurate as you thought.

Natasha Scott hopes that students will become better historians by studying different map styles. "So when you think about that, people are going to associate that, at first glance, with power", Scott said. Nor are they the only options.

"Every map has its strengths and weaknesses and we really want to make sure that the students take the time to analyze that".

  • Carolyn Briggs