The art of map making has some interesting connections to math. For example, it’s tough to draw a round earth on flat paper. Other problems can come up when one tries to highlight regions in a map using color. Our big question for this session is: How can you color a map with only a few colors?

Coloring is fun, but trick for maps is that it’s best to NOT color countries that border each other using the same color. Otherwise, people might think the two countries are just one big country.

During our session, we colored lots of maps, and tried to answer questions like:

  • What are some cool ways to color some (provided) maps?
  • What are some strategies for making sure you don't use too many colors?
  • What kinds of maps are harder to color than others?
  • Can you color the USA with 3 colors?
  • What are the least number of colors you'll need for really complicated maps? How do you know?
  • Are there ways to make coloring a map easier?
  • Can you draw and color maps drawn on wacky shapes (e.g., a torus)?

Want a Challenge?

Here' are a few map coloring puzzles.

Handouts from the session