Working With Scale

Working with Scale

A picture of Nicolas MalloyAuthor: Nicolas R. Malloy


In this chapter, you learned that map scale describes the relationship between distance on the ground and the way that distance is represented on a map. In this course, the ratio of map distance over ground distance defines scale.

An image of the definition of scale

Scale is the relationship between a distance measured on the map and the corresponding distance in the real world.

There are three common ways to express scale:

  • Representative fraction
  • Verbal scale
  • Scale bar

In this activity, you will learn how to determine scale and distance using the Arcata South USGS Topographic Quadrangle.

Learning Outcomes

Students who complete this tutorial should be able to:

  • Demonstrate competence in calculating and converting scale
  • Explain the relationship between distance, elevation, and slope
  • Measure distances using a graphic scale
  • Determine distance using a representative fraction
  • Determine an unknown scale using a reference map
  • Formulate a word statement to communicate scale