Use simple scales, legends and directions to interpret information contained in basic maps (ACMMG090)

LO: To use scales, legends and directions to read a map


  • what is a scale

  • what is a legend

  • the 4 basic compass directions (North, East, South, West) and how to use them to describe their relative location.


  • that there are characteristics on a map to help identify the location of items.


  • I can identify and use scales, legends and directions to interpret information from a map.

Items on a Map

All good maps always have 3 common items:

Compass (directions)

The compass always tells us which direction is north, from there we can work out which direction is East, South and West. These directions are always fixed in relation to the Earth. Other vocabularies such as left, right and straight ahead depend on the relative position of the object. 

Scale bar tells us how far locations are away in real life.

A legend tells us the specific features on the map like roads, rivers, lakes, trees and other paths.

The information about the scale on a map can be given in different ways:

Explicit scales (stated scales) are generally the easiest to understand. They use simple ratios to determine distance. For example, 1 cm = 1 km.

Graphical scales is a visualisation of physical distance on the map compared to a certain length in the real world.

Ratio scales are also used to represent distances on maps. For example, 1:50000 means that the real world distance is 50000x larger than on the map.


Maps usually always have a grid system for easy reading.

For example, we know that there is a volcano in grid A3 and also a palm tree in grid F3.

We usually always say letter first, then the number.

Teaching Ideas

Mapping Videos

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