The Mercator projection maps we're all familiar with dates to a 16th-centry Flemish cartographer who wanted to emphasize colonial trade routes; as a result, it vastly distorts the relative sizes and positions of the world's continents, swelling Europe and North America to absurd proportions and shrinking South America and Africa.
Boston schools are phasing in the 1974 Peters projection maps in place of the Mercators, which more accurately represent the landmasses' scales (at the cost of some accuracy in the shapes of those masses — everything is a trade-off). This gives teachers the chance to present side-by-side comparisons to their students, blowing their minds.
Natacha Scott, director of history and social studies at Boston public schools, said it was "interesting to watch the students saying 'Wow' and 'No, really? Look at Africa, it's bigger'".
"Some of their reactions were quite funny," she added, "but it was also amazingly interesting to see them questioning what they thought they knew."
Individual schools in the US have used the Peters maps, Scott said, adding: "We believe we are the first public school district in the US to do this."
Boston public schools map switch aims to amend 500 years of distortion [Joanna Walters/The Guardian]
(via We Make Money Not Art)
(Image: Gall–Peters projection SW, Strebe, CC-BY-SA)