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Scale Factor to Find Actual Dimensions

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Credit: Sakeeb Sabakka
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sakeeb/6027869592/
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

With smartphones and GPS technology, people don't use physical maps much anymore. However, there are still places on Earth where reception is spotty and directions are difficult. If you're hiking in the wilderness or exploring a foreign country, you may need to know how to use a paper map—and that means knowing how to make sense of scale.

Practicing the Scales

Scale varies from map to map. A map that shows an entire country will have a smaller scale than a map of a neighborhood. To understand how far you need to travel, find the scale. It's usually in one of the map's bottom corners. Common scales include 1 inch = 1 mile, 1 inch = 100 miles, and 1 inch = \frac{1}{4} mile. Most people can walk a mile on flat ground in about 20 minutes, even if they're not rushing. If you know how fast you walk, you can also use the scale to figure out how long it will take you to travel between two points on the map. Estimating travel times is especially helpful when you're walking in a strange city or hiking in a park.

Credit: Christopher Bulle
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67726656+@N00/4672972586
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Don't wait until you're stranded somewhere without cell phone reception to try and figure out how to read a map. Start now. Make it a game! Find a map of your area and see if you can find where you are, where you want to go, and how long you'll have to walk, without using your phone.

See for yourself: http://outdoor-safety.wonderhowto.com/how-to/read-paper-map-343324/

Explore More

Jenna is walking in the state park. She passes a trailhead and checks her map. On the map, 1 inch = \frac{1}{4} mile, and the trail loop measures about 6 inches long. About how long will it take her to walk the trail at a leisurely pace?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Sakeeb Sabakka; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sakeeb/6027869592/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Christopher Bulle; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67726656+@N00/4672972586; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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