What is a map scale?

So let me introduce you to the concept of scale and map scale

before understanding the map scale first you need to understand what is scale? The scale is the ratio that is used to calculate the actual size or area of items which has been reduced in size.

so why would someone want to reduce something? sometimes it is difficult to study something because it is too big or too small.

Check this video to see how the map scale looks like

for example, if you want to study bacteria it is difficult to study it with our bare eyes at its original size therefore you need to magnify it several times in order to see it. However, in order to understand the actual size of the bacteria, you will need to know how much you have magnified it in order to know the actual size of the bacteria.

if you need to study big things like let us say a country, it is difficult to study unless you reduce it in the size you can see it and the only way you can reduce it without losing the ability to calculate the actual area of original size is by using the scale.

so what is the scale?

The scale is the ratio between the distance and size of the representation of the items (in our example country or bacteria) to the actual size or distance of the item.

what is map scale?

The map scale is the ratio of a distance on the map with the actual or corresponding distance on the ground. Remember, the map is a scaled representation of the part of the earth’s surface.

The map scale is very important in geography because it help geographers perform functions such as measuring the size of the area on the earth’s surface, calculating areas on the earth’s surface using only maps.

The map scale is also used in military activities to calculate the enemy territory planning invasion. I hope you have seen generals in movies using maps to study enemy territory.

without mincing words, you can not use a map in any way if you do not know the scale used to make that map.

Map scale can be expressed in three ways

  • Using linear and this is known as a linear scale
  • using ratio this is known as ratio fraction or RF
  • using a statement where the scale is expressed in words, for example, I cm on the map represent 10 kilometers on the ground

To sum up, the map scale is just a ratio that is used to calculate the actual area or distance which is represented by the map.


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