What surprised Helen about the map?  

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I think you are asking about the various raised maps which were made out of clay for Helen to feel with her fingers. These maps of the globe were designed for Helen by her teacher, Miss Sullivan, and were intended to help Helen understand the layout of the world. For this reason, Miss Sullivan had included pieces of twine and physical divisions between the zones and poles of the earth to indicate the different hemispheres, where the North and South pole were located, and so on. However, when Helen felt the map with her fingers, the introduction of these foreign elements "confused" and surprised her, because she did not quite understand their meaning. Because Miss Sullivan had used literal poles, or sticks, to indicate where the North and South pole were, Helen created an impression in her mind that there would actually be sticks of this sort at the poles of the earth and that polar bears might actually climb these poles. Helen liked the maps and enjoyed following the paths of rivers and the ridges of mountain ranges with her fingers, but these extra elements surprised her.

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