The Parts of a map

world map.jpeg

A  map  is an illustration that show's all or part of Earth's surface.

An inherent problem with this concept is that Earth is a three dimensional sphere.  When we try to draw a three dimensional object on a two dimensional piece of paper the image becomes distorted.   Because of this all maps are inaccurate in at least one way.

Parts of a Map

All good maps have some common features that allow us to read them accurately.  These include the compass, scale, and legend.


The Scale is used to measure distances on a map.  It does this by describing the ratio of distances on the map to distances in real life.  The compass can be shown in several different ways: 

Written Scale: 

The simplest way of showing the scale on a map is if it is just written out.  On the example to the right 3 inches on the map equates to 10 miles in real life. 

This is least common way of showing the map scale. 

Written Scale.jpeg

Visual Scale:

A visual scale has a line that is divided into segments.  Each segment is marked with the distance it represents on the map.

Using scrap paper we can mark any two locations, and use the scale to find the distance between them. 


visual scale.jpeg

Numerical Scale: 

Numerical Scales show us the ratio of distances on the map compared to real life using only numbers.   

For example a scale of 1:100  means that 1 cm on the map = 100m

numerical scale.jpeg


The compass is used to show directions on a map.

In most cases, North is on the Top, South is on the Bottom, East is on the Right, and West is on the Left.

Again, compasses come in many different styles, as you can see in the examples below. 


compass styles.jpeg



The legend on a map tells us what any symbols on the map stand for.

For example, capital cities are usually indicated by Stars, mountains are usually indicated by triangles...