Using Maps

Using Maps in Education

Mapping is about developing awareness not only of the shape of the physical world, such as continents and oceans, but also the shape of the world socially, economically and politically. They are essential to developing a sense of global literacy.

Making, reading, analysing and comparing maps are essential skills enabling us to read and understand the world and the forces that shape it physically, economically, socially and politically. Maps are particularly important in developing a global perspective and can demonstrate very clearly the North/South, First World/Third World divide.

How do maps work?

  • Maps are pictorial representations of the shape of the world, its regions, countries, towns and their physical features. They can be drawn to any scale and can be used to present physical/environmental information as well as certain social, economic and political patterns.
  • Maps allow us present information in a visual way and also help us to read about the world, understand spatial relations, size and proportion. Maps therefore can help us locate information and places and draw connections between the two.
  • They can be presented on a local, regional or global scale and are a key to the development of overall global literacy.

A sample mapping activity - the world's wealth and population

  • In pairs give each student a copy of the proportional base map. Invite them to study the information on the map. Brainstorm their immediate reactions as a group. What does the map say about the shape of our world? What strikes them most about the distribution of world GNP? Do they have any comments to make about the relationship between population and GNP?
  • Some useful work in interpreting the map could be done by identifying and commenting on the breakdown of world GNP by country groupings e.g. the most economically powerful countries, the middle income group of countries and the poorest. They could then discuss the potential causes of these disparities and use this activity as a lead in to later ones.

Using maps with graphs and charts

Although maps themselves are prime resources, they can be well supplemented by graphs and pie charts where information related to the map is presented alongside the map itself. Students need to become familiar with these kinds of tables to be able to more effectively interpret and relate information given on the map to each region. In many ways pie charts and graphs are maps in themselves as they are visual ways of presenting information requiring the students to read and locate information.