Topic outline

  • Site Key

                                              Additional Information


                      Digging Deeper





  • Chapter 1: Titles & Symbols

    Section 1

    Where are you going?!

    Imagine that your best friend just moved to a new a country you have NEVER been!  Your friend gave you their cell phone to call when your plane landed so they could come and pick you up.  However, you forgot your phone charger!  You frantically go the information desk to ask for a phone book, but you don't speak the language!  All you have is a map that you found on your way out the plane.  Let's figure this out.  First things first.  

    Title and Symbols:


    This is your first clue.  The title usually always describes the area shown on your map.  In the world of Language Arts, this would be your topic sentence.  What is the title of your map?

    Compass Rose:

    Remember being turned around in our "Siberia"?  Directions like "front" or "rear" or "next to" mean different things to different people.  The Compass Rose on maps help us to get our bearings.  If you've ever used a compass on your GPS or phone (or even an old-school magnetic compass) you know that the needle of the compass always points north.  Knowing this information will help you find your way.  Too bad you left your smart phone charger at home.  Let's go back to the map.

    A compass tells us the four cardinal directions:  north, south, east and west.  A descriptive compass tells us the intermediate directions: northeast, southeast, southwest and northwest.  Check out your map and see if you can figure out the cardinal directions.


    Check out the top of our digital textbook.  SITE KEY.  This is the legend for our page.  This legend helps us to figure out what the symbols mean.  The legend is very important in map reading.  Just like this legend tells us that a compass represents additional information and a camera represents a video, the legend on a map tells us important symbols for things such as black lines for a road or highway, blue lines for rivers, or a star for the capital of a state or country.  What do you see on your map?  Do you remember if your friend lives near water, rivers, or a highway?  See what you can remember! 


    Cartographers (or mapmakers) use a system of imaginary lines to help divide up space on their maps.  Cartographers use horizontal lines and vertical lines that meet at 90-degree angles, often called grid lines.  The most commonly used system of imaginary grid lines are latitude and longitude.  Latitude and longitude coordinates allows you to locate any place on Earth. 


    • Section 2:Longitude & Latitude

      If only you had your cell phone!  Since your smart phone has a GPS tracker built in all your problems could have been easily solved!  How unfortunate that now you have to do things the old fashioned way. How does that little device know your absolute location, you ask?  The GPS enabled smart phone locates your location on the global grid. 

      The global grid uses latitude and longitude.  Latitude lines are parallel, imaginary lines that run east to west.  Lines of latitude are measured in degrees, north and south of the equator.  The equator is the most important line of latitude.  Latitude lines increase from 0' to 90' beginning at the equator.  Find the equator at 0 degrees and you can easily find any line of latitude by following the cardinal directions. 

      Longitude lines are imaginary lines that run north and south.  Lines of longitude are also measured in degrees, east and west of the prime meridian. Lines of longitude, unlike lines of latitude, are not parallel.  The prime meridian is the most important line of longitude.  Find the prime meridian at 0 degrees and you can easily find any line of longitude by following the cardinal  directions.

      Absolute location an be found by using latitude and longitude coordinates.  Coordinates for locations on earth are written in latitude points first, and longitude points second.  For example:  the coordinates for Rio de Janeiro are 23'N, 43'W.  First, you will need to locate the equator at 0' degrees latitude.  Your coordinates for Rio de Janeiro indicate it is located NORTH of the equator.  Slide your finger ABOVE the equator until you locate 23' N.  Next, locate 0 degrees longitude, or the prime meridian.  Rio de Janeiro is located WEST of the prime meridian.  Slide your finger to the WEST of the prime meridian, use your compass rose to help guide you!  Does your friend live in Rio?!  Probably not, but try to find this location on the map now!

      Did you find it?  Bummer that your friend doesn't live there.  Back to the search.  Since we are trying to find their location the old fashioned way, let's get a little more practice using latitude and longitude. 


      Think you're ready?!  I think not.  Keep practicing.

       WOOHOO!  You're an expert.  Good job.  Now you know how to read the grid lines on your "old school" map.  Moving right along...

      • Section 3: Map Scale

        Next up, we have to figure out if the map you are holding is a large scale or small scale map.

        Take a look at the maps below.  Which is a large scale map?  Which is a small scale map?

         (map from CIA worldfactbook.)

        (map from

        The top map, of the United States, is an example of a small scale map.  It would be impossible to use this map to navigate to a certain location.  The second map, of a portion of the University of Kentucky, is an example of a large scale map.  This map would help you to navigate to a certain location on campus.  Road names and landmarks are displayed in order to give points of reference. 

        Take a look at your imaginary map you are holding.  Is it small scale or large scale?  Do you see road names or is it a map of a larger area? 

        GREAT!  Now that we know you have a large scale map, that will make finding your friend a LOT easier!

        Now, in order for us to try to find your friend, we have to understand the "zoom" level of your map.  All maps usually have a map scale.  It looks like two short lines with notches on them.  Can you find the map scale on your map?

        Oh! You just remembered that you friend told you that she lived on Rose Street.  Let's see how far you are away from Rose Street.  Take a scrap sheet of paper and tear it in a strip.  Place the strip of paper under the map scale.  Mark the distance on your strip of paper with a pencil.  Place the paper on the airport location (where you are currently located) where you marked a 0 on the strip of paper.  Measure the distance to Rose Street. 

        Congrats!  You have just discovered you are only a few miles away from Rose Street!