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With this online activity, students explore the classic mathematics map-coloring question known as the four-color problem. Students must determine the minimum number of colors needed to color a map so that entities sharing a border have different colors. Initially, students investigate the minimum number of colors necessary to color a map of states west of the Mississippi River. The activity's Getting Started section suggests coloring the states in a specific order. The Solution page uses odd and even numbers to explain the mathematics of map coloring. In the Try These section, students solve problems investigating other map-coloring situations and learn how map coloring relates to fields such as city planning. The activity includes a brief history of the four-color problem, which was finally solved using a computer in 1976. This activity is one of 80 mathematical challenges featured on the Figure This! web site, where real-world uses of mathematics are emphasized. Copyright 2005 Eisenhower National Clearinghouse
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