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Maps and Mathematics

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Studying and creating maps is a wonderful way to link both 3D Objects, 2D Shapes and Position sub-strands in your maths sessions. The earliest map found so far is from the Czech Republic dated about 25 000 years ago. This showed geographical landmarks in the area.  Another early map was created on the walls of Lascaux Caves, France about 16 500 BC. The ancient Babylonian created clay maps of the world as early as 600 BC. The ancient Egyptians also created maps to record property boundaries. And the ancient Chinese created maps on silk. Islamic scholars had world maps in 1154 AD to help Arab merchants and explorers. Records also show Polynesian maps of the Pacific Ocean to help their sailors travel large distances. Sticks were tied in a grid with palm strips to represent wind and wave patterns. Attached shells showed were to find small islands.

Later in the 16th century, of course, the Flemish cartographer, Mercator, worked out a way to make the 3D world look better as a 2D shape and the Mercator’s Projection map was born. Today we have highly detailed digital maps based on aerial photography and satellite imagery. We even have them accessible on our phones.

Maps helped humans define their 3D world as 2D images and as 3D globes. The word ‘cartography” means the study of maps and it comes from a Latin word “carta” (map). All your students, young and all, can enjoy thinking about how to represent the world around them as a map. You’ll find our suggested activities at Geometry – Position. We also have a few maps in Position Photographs and Position Graphics. We are always on the lookout for plenty more!