Monday, September 22, 2008


Recently, a friend sent me a link to a US geography puzzle that required you to properly place the states where they belonged and without benefit of their names. He aasumed that I knew the shapes because I had been to every state and lived in 15 of them, so he challenged me to complete the puzzle in under two minutes.

Using the Great Lakes as the fixed landmark I was off to a great start --- but it took longer than two minutes. Of course, it was the fault of my mouse because it slipped a few times. You know the state is properly seated when the abbreviation of the state appears, but sometimes the mouse just didn't make it happen. Well, of course I did the "Type-A" thing and did the puzzle several more times until I could do well under two minutes!

Go to and try for yourself. Don't feel bad it your mouse does you wrong like mine did! And no fair using another map as a guide.

Even though I had studied US geography, as I studied the completed map, I wondered about some of the quirks in the various state borders. So I "Googled" the question and was directed to a new book, How The States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein (Smithsonian Books, 2008). It's a quick read and does a great job explaining all four of each state's borders. It also reminds you of some US history you might have forgotten. For example, did you remember that Oklahoma got its panhandle as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 that modified the Missouri Compromise of 1820 on the issue of slavery in new territories?

I was also interested in the explanation for some of the border quirks with our state of North Carolina. I now understand the southern border with South Carolina and the western border with Tennessee. I now also understand the straight line northern border that originally ran clear across the nation, and why there is some deviation in that straight line, especially in Tennessee and Missouri, and then the new line in Oklahoma New Mexico, and Arizona.

It's just facisinating, even if you aren't willing to ring in on the $2000 US geography question on Jeopardy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for ruining my evening with an addictive puzzle! Wow, I thought I knew my states but that was hard.