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Map Interpretation

Broadly, map analysis is  a study is made regarding map types (which could include geologic maps, isopach maps, contour lines etc.), and the unique physical qualities of a map such as scale, title, and legend. It is also a ways of decoding the message and symbols of map and placing it within its proper context. A map is an image of an area, usually of the Earth or part of the Earth. A map is different from an aerial photograph because it includes interpretation. The word “map” can also be used to talk about a chart or drawing that shows relationships between ideas, people, events, or anything else you can think about. People who make maps are cartographers.

Lesson 1 (or “Day 1”) Material
Lesson 2 (or “Day 2”) Material
Recommended: Lab 14 (as “Day 3 and Day 4”)
  • Lab 14 – Conduct topographic map lab
  • Lab 23 – Construct a globe (team project)

Standard Alternative for “Day 3 and 4”
Lesson 3 (or “Day 3”) Material
Lesson 4 (or “Day 4”) Material

3:51 Lesson 3 – Part 1: Introduction to Cartography

1:55 How to Read a Weather Map

3:05 How to orient a map and take a bearing with a compass. The basics of how to use a compass and map.



Compare Contrast and Debate

Kick-Off Debate Background: 

Map making dates back thousands of years. With each new century, improvements have taken place in both the art and the science of maps. Today, most people have reasonably easy access to GPS-type of maps, at the touch of a smart phone or computer. Some might argue that paper-based maps and other non-digital maps are truly a think of the past and are entirely obsolete. Others might argue that significant value still exists in non-digital maps – and there will be an ongoing need, in spite of advancements of computer technology – to maintain both the art and science of traditional map making.

  • Position A: Paper-based maps are obsolete. Education systems should focus exclusively on digital/computerized maps
  • Position B: Both computer-based maps and paper-based maps are important map-types for students and others to use and understand.

Resources Documents and Links

Special Notes and Notices

Instructor Emphasis:

  • Science & Engineering Practice: Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information.
  • Cross-Cutting Concept: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity.

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