Topographic Map Review

Cathy Baker
Arkansas Tech University
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Initial Publication Date: May 2, 2008 | Reviewed: November 3, 2013


Topographic Map Review is a review exercise assigned at the very beginning of the Geol 3044, Geomorphology course. Students review aspects of reading topograph maps and are introduced to utilizing digital map programs and obtaining topographic information from digitized maps. Topo USA 5.0 is the digital program used in the assignment.

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Upper level (junior/3000) level course as a mapping review exercise.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Topographic map reading skills, mathematical quantitative skills, computer skills, and pattern recognition skills (for example, linear ridges usually equal flanks of folds)

How the activity is situated in the course

Review of topographic map reading is a lab-based exercise that precedes field examinatioin of topographic expression of landforms


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Understanding and recognition of topographic expression of landforms is the basis for studies in geomorphology. Topographic maps are one of the main sources of topographic information; so studens must be comfortable with reading topographic maps and acquainted with different sources of topographic map information (quad sheets, digital programs, online digital sources, etc.). This exercise is designed to strengthen student's map reading and map interpretation skills and background.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills targeted for this exercise include:
- ability to analyses data
- pattern recognition
- pattern interpretation
- critical evaluation of interpretations
- extending computer skills

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

Topographic map review involves the review of topographic quadrangle maps using 7 1/2 Minute USGS Topographic Quadrangle maps and the Topo USA 5.0 digital mapping program. Students are provided with a section reviewing colors, symbols, distance/direction determination, location methods, contour and elevation determination, slope analysis, and envisioning topography from a map. Students are provided the answers to the review section. In a second section, students are asked to answer questions related to distance, location, elevation and contour, slope, and envisioning topography.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Uses online and/or real-time data

Determining whether students have met the goals

assignment is graded for correctness.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Topo USA 5.0 DeLorme Program
TerraServer USA