Teach the Earth > Geomorphology > Teaching Activities > Topographic Map Review

Topographic Map Review

Cathy Baker
Arkansas Tech University
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: May 2, 2008


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.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Topo USA 5.0 DeLorme Program
TerraServer USA

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