MAP READING & INTERPRETATION
A map is a portion or part of the features of the earth’s surface drawn to scale on a
plane surface such as paper, card, plastic, cloth or some other material. Or a map
is a representation on any plane surface of the features of part or portion of the
earth’s surface drawn to scale.
ESSENTIALS OF A MAP
A map must have the five essentials:-
(i) A title – This is used to tell us what the map is about
(ii) A key –This is used to identify and interpret the signs and symbols used
on that map
(iii) A margin –This is used to bound the area shown by the map
(iv) North direction – To indicate the north direction on a map
(v) Scale –To show the relationship between the distance on that map and
that ob the ground.
THE USES OF MAPS TO THE GEOGRAPHY STUDENTS:
Map like topographical maps are particularly useful to geographers because:-
(i) They provide a basis for an orderly geographical description of a region.
(ii) The provide much information on the nature and distribution of
geographical situation e.g. Population distribution and settlements.
(iii) They are essential to any field study.
(iv) They are used to produce personal maps to explain about the research
projects and other projects.
Types of Maps
There are many types of maps. Most of these maps are grouped into major types
1. Topographic maps.
2. Statistical or Distribution maps
1.1 Topographic maps
The word topography is derived from the Greek word topos, which means place.
Topography is a term used to describe all physical features of a given area.
Topographic maps are small-scale drawings of a part of the earth’s surface. These
The geographic location in a map may be shown by using:-
(i) Compass bearing.
(ii) Grid reference.
(iii) Latitude and longitude.
(iv) Political and administrative boundaries.
(v) Use of place names.
Some of the landscape features shown on a topographic map are
mountains, hills, plateaus, plains, lakes, rivers, seas, oceans and shape of
© Cultural features
Some of the cultural features or artificial features are roads, railways, cities,
towns, dams and other structures built by man.
Most of the topographic maps in Tanzania are produced by the Lands and
Survey Department. To make these maps, airplanes are used to take
pictures for an area for the first survey. Late, only certain points on land
need to be measured and surveyed by surveyors. When all the necessary
data has been compiled it is then used to print and produce maps.
Uses of topographic maps
(i) Topographic maps are useful for describing features of the earth’s
(ii) People use maps t reach their direction. That is the direction where
to go and how far to go.
(iii) Builders use maps to plan the best use of land.
(iv) Road builders use maps to design new roads.
(v) Farmers use maps to plan the best use of their farmlands.
1.2 Statistical or Distribution maps.
The statistical or distribution maps are the type of maps which have been
made with the help of exact statistics. These maps show such things as
distribution of rainfall, temperature, pressure, vegetation, crops, minerals
and many other things. The commonly used Statistical or Distribution maps
are the Atlas maps.
(a) They are maps drawn on small scales.
(b) They show whole countries, continents or even the world on a single sheet
of paper or page.
© They show generalized information. They do not include or show a great
amount of detail as shown in topographic maps.
(d) Atlas maps my be drawn on one map and include and show the distribution
of many things such as crops, minerals, roads, railways, towns, relief,
vegetation and many others. Such details may be shown by the use of
colors, signs and symbols.
(e) Atlas maps ate simple, easy to read and interpret. They are easy to draw or
Uses of statistical and distribution maps
(i) They are useful for describing the distribution of many things found on
the earth’s surface or showing certain selected features such as physical,
political, historical or economic features.
(ii) They are useful for showing generalised information on large or small
Some examples of the uses of the statistical or distribution maps.
(i) Physical maps show the arrangement or the distribution of mountains,
hills, uplands, lowlands, rivers and so on.
(ii) Political maps show areas with their political and administrative
(iii) Climatic maps show the distribution of temperatures, rainfall, pressure,
winds, climatic regions, etc.
(iv) Historical empires and historical sites, for example. Olduvai Gorge.
(v) Economic maps show the distribution of chief crops, animals, industries,
roads, mines, etc.
SCALE OF A MAP
A scale is the relationship or ratio between the distance on map and the true
distance on the earth’s surface.’
Scale= Distance on map
Distance on earth’s surface
THE USES OF SCALE:
(i) Helps map interpreter to calculate distance, area and computation of
(ii) Helps contractors, engineers to design appropriate plans for bridges,
railway lines etc.
(iii) Helps economists and geographers in establishing the projects.
(iv) Helps map maker to represent a part of the earth’s surface on a small
piece of paper.
(v) Helps map makers t draw maps.
Expression of scales
There are three types of scales:-
1. Statement scale. 2. Representative fraction scale. 3. Linear Scale.
1. STATEMENT OF SCALE
This is the way of expressing the scale by using words. Example: 1:500,000
or 1cm to 5km.
This means that one centimeter on the map represent five kilometers on
the actual ground.
NOTE: Statement scale is written in cm to km.