map quiz

Fiendishly Difficult One-Question Map Quiz

Map QuizAfter making the map posted here I realized that its patterns are so odd that it would make an extremely difficult GeoQuiz. Just one question: what does the map show?

The topic being mapped is commonplace, familiar to all readers. The categories are relatively precise, with almost no overlap or gradations, and they derive from an authoritative website devoted to the topic under consideration. A few countries, however, do not fit easily into any of the categories used. I have thus put question marks on two of the most problematic countries, Ethiopia and the United Kingdom.

The groupings on the map are oddly patterned. What might link Japan, Guinea, and the Central African Republic? Why would Bangladesh and Fiji be in a category of their own? Only a few of the categories fit within traditional world regions. The yellow countries are all in the greater Middle East, and the light blue aggregation is found only in the Caribbean. Medium green is mostly confined to Latin America, and light brown is concentrated in northern and southeastern Europe—but includes Kenya as well. A few  size correlations are evident. The mid blue category covers a group of large countries, while the light blue grouping includes only small ones. A number of countries occupy categories of their own: Russia, Greece, Montenegro, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, and the Comoros.

On the GeoCurrents map, non-sovereign states, such as Greenland, Puerto Rico, New Caledonia, and the Palestinian territories, are unmarked, and the Western Sahara, mostly occupied by Morocco, is left in the same neutral gray. On the website that provides the source material, however, these areas are classified as well, as are many other dependencies. No information is available on that website, however, for Kosovo.

The actual map, with an explanatory title and full key, will be posted tomorrow — or earlier than that if someone figures it out.

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Is Geography Reducible to Country Names and Locations?

Africa Quiz from the Christian Science Monitor

Africa Quiz from the Christian Science MonitorThe Christian Science Monitor asks its readers, “Think you know Africa? Take our geography quiz.” In the quiz, 16 of 20 questions merely ask for the name of a country indicated on a map. One question asks the name of a mountain range, and two ask for the names of cities shown in photographs. The final question is a bit more complicated, asking for the identification of the only African country that is not a member of the African Union (Morocco).

Although I am happy to see a major publication quizzing its reader’s grasp of the political map of Africa, I am frustrated by the underlying assumption that geographical knowledge can be reduced to place-name identification. I find it telling testimony to the sorry state of geographical education that mastering such elementary information would be considered evidence of adequate geographical comprehension.

That said, the quiz does provide some interesting information. Had I been asked, for example, “what country in the world has the highest lowest elevation,” I would probably have been stymied, yet the Monitor provides the correct answer: “Completely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho is, by some measures, the highest country in the world. Its lowest point is at an elevation of 4,593 feet, higher than that of any other country.”

Tomorrow’s GeoNote will give a brief sample of how I test my own students’ knowledge of Africa in multiple-choice exams.




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