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Map coloring
Have you ever noticed that on many maps of the United States, or maps of the world, that the states or countries are printed in dierent colors? And did you notice that two states or countries that share a border are always dierent colors? 1. Here are some maps of neighboring states. Assign colors to the states in each case. Try to nd the least number of colors needed so that if two states share a border (part of a side, not just a corner), they have dierent colors.
Dierent colors are used to make it easier to distinguish neighboring states or countries quickly and easily.

When you want to nd a coloring scheme, theres actually extra information given by a mapsuch as the shapes of the states. In mathematics, its often helpful to model a situation, simplifying it to remove extra, unnecessary information. One way to do this for the map problem is to create a vertex-edge graph. Let each state be represented by a small circle, which is called a vertex of the graph. Connect the points if the states they represent share a border. (The connecting segment or curve is called an edge of the graph.) For example, the map from problem 1a might be modeled like this:
The actual arrangement of the vertices doesnt matter with a vertex-edge graph, only which are connected to each other. This graph looks dierent, but is really the same graph:

Problems with a Point: March 26, 2002

c EDC 2002

Map coloring: Problem

2
The plural of vertex is vertices.

2.

Here are vertices to represent the states from problem 1c.

(a) Draw edges between the vertices if the corresponding states share a border. (b) Use the vertex-edge graph to create a color assignment for this map, without looking at the work you did in problem 1. Again use the fewest number of colors possible. (c) Did you nd it easier or more dicult to color the graph? Why? 3. Create a vertex-edge graph to model the following map, then use the graph to assign colors to the states in the map.

4.

Find the fewest number of colors needed for each of the following graphs.

Can you create a system to always use the least number possible?

5. 6.

What is the largest number of colors youve needed for any of the maps or graphs so far? Challenge: Create a vertex-edge graph that requires more colors than your answer to problem 5. Can you create a map that could be represented by that graph?
c EDC 2002

Problems with a Point: March 26, 2002

Map coloring: Hints

Hints
Hint for problem 4. For the last graph, try rearranging the vertices to make the graph easier to work with. For example, move the ones colored white in this version:

Problems with a Point: March 26, 2002

c EDC 2002

Map coloring: Answers

Answers
1. Color assignments may vary. Dierent colors may be used, of course, but in many cases dierent patterns may also be assigned. The minimum colors are given, along with one possible way to color the map with the minimum number. (a) 3 colors: (c) 3 colors:
Teachers Note: You may have students use colored pencils, pens, or crayons to actually color the maps and graphs. Or, have them assign colors by writing the color (or an abbreviation) in or beside each state or vertex.

(b) 2 colors:

(d) 3 colors:

2.

The graph should have the same lines shown here. Students may have an equivalent coloring scheme equivalent, unless they used an equivalent scheme in problem 1c.

3.

Shapes of the graphs and colorings may vary.

Problems with a Point: March 26, 2002

c EDC 2002

Map coloring: Answers

2
Note that one more vertex in the edges of the rst two graphs would allow one fewer colors to be used.

4.

The fewest colors needed are 3 for the rst, 4 for the second, and 4 for the third. Here is a sample coloring for each.

5. 6.

The largest color needed is 4. Any graph which includes n vertices that are each connected to the others will require n colors. For example:

However, no map will correspond to such a graph. (See the note below.) Teachers Note: The four-color theoremwhich states that no more than 4 colors will ever be needed to color a map was proven in 1977 by mathematicians Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken. See Eric Weissteins World of Mathematics, http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Four-ColorTheorem.html, for more on this theorem.

Problems with a Point: March 26, 2002

c EDC 2002