A Resource Guide on Maps & Map Skills

By: Francesca Fiori

A map is a picture that describes a certain location. It does not matter whether the location is near or far, large or small, a map can help. There are a several different types of maps. Each one is used to show different information. The six different types of maps are economic (or resource), climate, physical, political, road, and topographic.

Economic or Resource Maps

An economic or resource map can display several pieces of information. Some economic maps display different lines of trade and commerce. Other resource maps show the location of different natural resources that are above and underground. These maps are usually color coded to help the viewer separate the different areas.

Climate Maps

A climate map shows the different temperatures and the amount of precipitation of an area. These maps are color coordinated and have a key off to the side to explain the different sections. It usually includes specific weather patterns that can be tracked by looking at different climate maps over a specific amount of time. Weather maps are a type of climate map and can be used to predict the temperature of the next few days.

  • World Climate Zones: Map displaying the different climate zones along with an explanation of climate and seasons.  
  • Climate Education: An explanation of the different parts of a climate map (or weather map) using the average temperatures in the U.S. 
  • Climate of the U.S.: Choose any of the fifty states and a detailed climate map comes up.
  • Amount of Precipitation in the U.S.: A map of the amount of precipitation that each portion of the U.S. receives.
  • Types of Maps: Offers information on the five different types of maps along with examples.

Physical Maps

A physical map indicates the locations of different landforms. This includes mountains, plains and deserts and bodies of water. Usually, countries and cities are labeled but not in as much detail as a political map. A key is provided to explain the different symbols on the map. Sometimes the map will be color coordinated but this is not always the case.  

  • Zoom Into Maps: Physical map from the 1970 National Atlas. Offers different ideas for study along with several links to other maps.
  • Lewis & Clark Mapping the West: Explanation of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and what types of things were included in their maps.
  • The World Fact Book: In addition to information on every country, physical and political maps of the different locations are included.
  • Reading a Map: Interactive presentation explaining how to read a map starting at the ground level.

Political Maps

A political map shows the different boundaries of countries, states, counties, and cities. Usually the major cities are included as well as the bodies of water. While a physical map has many of these same features, the political map does not show physical landmarks like mountains or plains. Political maps can be general or very detailed. There are noticeable changes over time as different countries are formed. Even today, these maps continue to change.

Road Maps

Road maps show the different roads of a certain location. Depending on the area, the map will show interstates as well as smaller highways. Drivers use this type of map to make their way from one location to another. Check for information on the scale of the map. There is usually a place that explains how to determine the miles between two locations.

Topographic Maps 

A topographic map shows a large-scale location. There are usually contouring lines that show the different heights of both physical and man-made features. In a way, it provides details about the land. Because it shows the shape of an area’s surface builders often use these maps to get a better idea of the area where they are going to work. They often come in handy when planning any type of construction.

Back To Top