What is a map?

Geospatial Technology, Science for Youth June 02, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

A map is designed to represent a variety of information. Some maps show where roads are located. Others show the location of tourist attractions or local landmarks. Other maps show weather patterns.  

The objects on a map are indicated by symbols. The symbols are pictures that represent something in the real world. The map key or legend tells you what the symbols mean. For example, a picture of an airplane likely means there's an airport located there. 

A map also includes a scale, which indicates distance. You need this to know how many miles you have to travel to get somewhere. Two cities that look an inch apart on the map might actually be 25 miles apart. Mapmakers use a mathematical formula to determine the scale of each map based on the ratio of a feature's actual size to map size. 

What is a topographic map? 
How are maps used with GPS and GIS?

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.