Geography GCSE: Using maps to work out distance

Joe Crowley explains that because maps are drawn to scale, they can be used to work out exact distances between two points.

Maps have different scales – a popular scale is 1:25,000.

Joe points out on a map that this means that every measurement on the ground is exactly 25,000 larger than shown on the map.

Each map will tell you its scale on the legend section.

On the 1:25,000 series, this means that one centimetre on the map equals 250 metres in the real world.

One way to gauge distance is to look at the blue lines on the map which denote eastings and northings.

Each is one kilometre apart, so by counting how many your route crosses, you get a rough approximation of distance.

Routes are rarely straight, so Joe shows to use a piece of strength to trace a route, and measure the length, giving a much more precise approximation.

This clip is from the series Get Lost.

Teacher Notes

Useful when discussing map reading or using maps to navigate.

Students can be asked to discuss the difference between paper maps and digital maps and the significance of map features.

This clip could also help students understand coordinates, contour lines and how map symbols and legends translate to real landscapes.

Encourage students to discuss the importance of observing surroundings and matching them to a position.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Geography.

This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland