Maps are a wealth of data. The best maps are easy to read and give lots of information. Instead of starting with an English map – start with a map in a different language. See how much your students can understand about this Russian map of an Island.

After you explore this map in Russian I will give you the English translations. Just see what your students can figure out.

These maps are from the inspired cartographer Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons user: Sting)

Do you think the blue or black print would refer to the name of the island. Do you see anything that would give a clue about whether this is an island in a lake or an island in the middle of the ocean.

These maps are from the inspired cartographer Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons user: Sting)

Next, it is time for us to see the whole Island.


Let’s see how well the map maker Eric Gaba succeeded in imparting data to you and your students. Let’s look at the same maps, but this time in English.


I’ll go through each of the close-up slides. Back and forth between English and Russian.


Did your students guess that the white patch was an airport? The little icon of a plane might have helped. Did they guess the height of the tallest point on the island?  Did they figure out where a battle was fought in 1814?


Even in Russian, Eric Gaba’s clean presentation of data allows you to figure out a LOT.


The blue text names the body of water. The black text names the Island. The legend shows that the altitude of the surface of the lake is about 170 meters above sea level. This is definitely a lake. Not the ocean.



Again, your students probably figured out some of this even in Russian.


Did your students figure out about how big the island is? Did they figure out the symbol for a lighthouse? For a road?


They may even have figured out the urban areas.


What did your students think the dotted lined areas might be? Are they natural or man-made?


Good luck with maps in your classroom. (In another map slide show I’ll be exploring maps as a way of introducing ordering. Which mountain is the tallest?)

Russian Map Reading

(MathPickle, 2015)

Good maps present a high density of data that can be absorbed efficiently. Because of this, they are absolutely essential in the mathematics classroom focussed on communicating data.

Standards for Mathematical Practice

MathPickle puzzle and game designs engage a wide spectrum of student abilities while targeting the following Standards for Mathematical Practice:

MP1 Toughen up!

Students develop grit and resiliency in the face of nasty, thorny problems. It is the most sought after skill for our students.

MP2 Think abstractly!

Students take problems and reformat them mathematically. This is helpful because mathematics lets them use powerful operations like addition.

MP3 Work together!

Students discuss their strategies to collaboratively solve a problem and identify missteps in a failed solution. MathPickle recommends pairing up students for all its puzzles.

MP4 Model reality!

Students create a model that mimics the real world. Discoveries made by manipulating the model often hint at something in the real world.

MP5 Use the right tools!

Students should use the right tools: 0-99 wall charts, graph paper, etc.

MP6 Be precise!

Students learn to communicate using precise terminology. MathPickle encourages students not only to use the precise terms of others, but to invent and rigorously define their own terms.

MP7 Be observant!

Students learn to identify patterns. This is one of the things that the human brain does very well. We sometimes even identify patterns that don't really exist 😉

MP8 Be lazy!?!

Students learn to seek for shortcuts. Why would you want to add the numbers one through a hundred if you can find an easier way to do it?


Please use MathPickle in your classrooms. If you have improvements to make, please contact me. I'll give you credit and kudos 😉 For a free poster of MathPickle's ideas on elementary math education go here.

Gordon Hamilton

(MMath, PhD)