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The map is not the territory


Group 3 – specific subject – tool for geography teachers


pupils from 14 to 18


  • To learn to decentralize students’ point of view
  • To discover Peters’ map projection and other geographical projections of the world
  • To stimulate cooperation


75 minutes


  • Print the “cooperative Cards” tab attached, cut a series of 5 cards of the world along the lines and group pieces by letter (e.g. Letter A), put the pieces divided by 5 letter envelopes and mark them with the corresponding letter (e.g. Envelope A)Repeat for each participant group.If you need to, write the rules, or project them.
  • Print a solution template map
  • A world map of Peters and one of Mercator, you can buy or download from the Internet
  • Paper Scotch
  • Print non-Eurocentric world map (see: appendix 2)


  • Divide participants into groups of 5 people.
    • Distribute to each group a series of envelopes (A, B, C, D, E) asking them not to open the envelopes. (5 minutes)
  • Give the following instructions (10 minutes):
    • Each participant has an envelope with a few pieces of a world map of the world.
    • Everyone must try to create a complete world map of the world.
    • The activity will not end until all participants have finished their world map.
    • It is forbidden to talk and make gestures, signs etc.
    • You may not ask for or take pieces of the other members of the group.
    • It is allowed to give your own pieces of world maps to other members of the group if you think that they can serve.
  • Once all groups have finished, start the discussion (20minutes):
  • Ask each group to share their experience, the difficulties (technical, relational, emotional…) and the resulting strategies implemented.
  • Examine the dynamics of the game, in particular highlighting the most effective cooperative strategies, “focusing on the needs of others rather than on their own.”
  • Hang Peters’ projection on the wall and ask to comment on the features, from the strange form that perhaps many have never seen. (20 minutes)
  • Focus on Peters’ projection and the differences between this and the classic Mercator projection (often present in class): What are the differences between the two maps? And what are the similarities? What is the “correct one”?
  • Finally, you can present to the class non-Eurocentric world projections. Ask them what are the differences and the similarities. Do these different world projections change their perceptions of the world? How?

For example:

In a Sino-centric world map the United States are located in the east of China;

In a US-centric world map Europe and Asia are separated on either side;

In an Australian-centric world map South is at the top;

The final goal of the discussion should be a clear awareness that the true world map of the world does not exist, there is our ability to see the world from different points of view and from there we can try to get closer and closer to the truth, which is nothing more than the sum of many different points of view.

Finish by explaining the name of the activity: “The map is not the territory”. This quote comes from Alfred Korzybski, father of general semantics: “A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness”. To sum up, our perception of reality is not reality itself but our own version of it, or our own “map”.


You should read the differences between Peters’ and Mercator’s world maps:


Giordano Golinelli, ACRA-CCS (‘La mappa non è il territorio’) © De Agostini Scuola S.p.A.


The map is not the territory, appendix 1

The map is not the territory, appendix 2

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