Believe it or not, coloring is a profound mathematical topic with many multi-million-dollar industrial applications. The problem presented here has been of interest to mathematicians for over a hundred years. Some versions of the problem are easy to solve, others have yielded only recently to relentless efforts that would not have been possible without the aid of powerful computers. In all of its aspects, the basic problem is the same: How many colors do you need?

With a few crayons or markers and some hand-drawn maps, children can quickly find themselves grappling with some of the same conundrums that contemporary mathematicians do.

Map Coloring: The Big Picture

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