Geographic Information Systems

Background about Maps: Scales

Maps are a way to communicate geographic information that can be displayed in different scales.

The scale of the map is the ratio of the distance on the map to the distance on the ground. The map scale shows you how 'zoomed in' or 'zoomed out' you are.

Notice how the level of detail changes on the large and small scale maps on the right. The large scale map shows greater detail but the area is not as large. The small scale (or more zoomed out) map showing less detail because more area is shown.

Major highways and roads are included on the large-scale map, whereas no streets are included on the small-scale map, only the country names.

Large and Small Scale maps

(+) = "Zoom in"
(Larger scale)
(-) = "Zoom out"
(Smaller scale)

Practice the
zoom in and
zoom out
functions in the
Google map.

Click on the thumbnail
maps to zoom there
in the Google map.

Your Turn: Scale Activity

Question 1:

Is the map to the left a small or large scale map?

Question 2:

What does a larger-scale map indicate?
More area can be seen
Less area can be seen

Your Turn: Advanced Scaling Activity #1

Last Modified: Feb 20, 2019