Map Literacy

Reading a physical map appears to be a skill that is losing popularity. Many of us rely on technology to guide us to our locations. However, map reading is still a relevant skill. We should never solely depend on technology, especially when venturing out into the wilderness. Batteries die, signals get lost, devices get wet, or any number of unforeseen circumstances can occur that render such technology useless.

“Long-life learners will find maps in every day of life. As they read books, newspaper[s], magazines, watch television, and go to new places, they will discover maps as the spatial information media.” – N. B. Segara, E. Maryani, N. Supriatna and M. Ruhimat

Maps come in many forms, including topographical, navigational or thematic. They can be in both paper and digital formats. The ability to read, interpret and analyze maps allows us to learn new information and discover different places. Learning how to critically analyze maps — both physical and digital — contributes to critical literacy.

Learning to read and analyze maps offers many benefits.

  • Numeracy – Calculating distances on a paper map can help boost numeracy skills. For children, learning about what is nearer and what is farther is a good start.
  • Spatial awareness and thinking – Spatial thinking allows us to imagine an object’s location, its shape, the relationship to other objects and the paths the object takes to move.
  • Reading symbols – Interpreting what abstract symbols represent on a map is a great way to improve visual literacy. Students use the symbols in the key or legend to find features on the map.
  • Interpreting data – Learning to read maps allows us to visualize and interpret data.

“Like reading and basic math, learning to read a map is a foundational skill that is an essential prerequisite for subsequently developing a wide range of knowledge and skills.” – Daniel C. Edelson

Maps help us understand our place in the world. To learn more about teaching adults to create and read maps, take a look at the resources below.

Resources

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