Welcome to Common Core Texts, a project by Michael DeJoseph. Here you'll find high-quality reading passages for grades 3 to 12 in ELA, Social Studies, History, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and many other topics.

A Historical Myth
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

Some historical myths are hard to get rid of. For example, Vikings didn’t wear helmets with horns on them. Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb; he just borrowed the idea. George Washington never cut down a cherry tree. One particularly false story has to do with Christopher Columbus, the explorer who sailed to the Americas in 1492. The story goes that Columbus set out on his voyage because he wanted to prove that the Earth was round. His crew, it is said, were terrified by the long trip. They feared that they would sail straight off the edge of the Earth!

The truth is that Columbus, his crew, and just about everyone else knew very well that the Earth was round. In fact, humans have known the true shape of the Earth for thousands of years. Once you know where to look, the evidence proving that the Earth is round is everywhere.

To the plain eye, the Earth might appear flat. However, there are many clues that hint at the true shape of our planet. For example, a keen eye watching a ship sail off into the horizon will notice that the bottom of the ship begins to disappear first. This is because the ship is rounding the curve of the Earth. The stars also hold the secret of our planet’s shape. As we move further away from the equator, we are able to see different constellations. This would not be true if the Earth were flat.

Columbus himself certainly knew that the Earth was round. However, he was wrong about its size. Columbus thought the Earth was about one-third smaller than it actually is. If he had known our planet’s true size, he probably never would have taken his journey in the first place! His ships were not large enough to carry the supplies he would need for such a long trip.


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