Sense of Directions and Studying a Map - Orchids The International School
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Directions and Maps

Concept: Sense of Directions and Studying a Map

Using the words left, right, up and down are not enough to justify the position of an object.

The position of the person asking the questions may differ from the one answering.

Hence, it is essential to learn about specific directions.


Cardinal directions:

  • These are North, South, East and West. These are denoted as N-North, S-South, E-East and W-West.
  • The cardinal directions are clockwise and related to our Earth's position.
  • The imaginary axis we consider our Earth revolves around in twenty-four hours is used for cardinal directions.
  • So, the upper end of this axis is denoted as North (N), while the lower end is marked as South (S).
  • Facing towards the North, the direction towards our right-hand side is East (E), and the direction towards our left-hand side is West (W)

Sunrise and Sunset:

  • The Sun rises from the East every morning and sets in the West.
  • This regular phenomenon can help us identify the directions.
  • When we stand facing East, the direction on our left-hand side is North, and the one on the right-hand side is South.
  • When we stand facing West, the direction of our right-hand side would be North, and the one on the left-hand side would be South.

Directions using clock hands:

The cardinal directions in a clock are represented as follows—

  • To locate places and objects.
  • To travel from one place to another.
  • Astronauts use directions to find the positions of stars, moon and planets.
  • Sailors and pilots use the directions to identify the correct path to navigate.

Use and importance of directions

  • A magnetic compass is an instrument used to determine directions.
  • It works based on a tiny magnetic needle that aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • As the pointer shows the North direction, other directions can be identified based on it.


  • A small model of the Earth which is used to study the continents, countries and other physical components is called a globe.
  • The Earth is massive. A globe resembles Earth in the perfect size and is of great educational importance.


  • A graphic representation of a place, country, or state on a flat surface is called a map.

Uses of maps:

  • To identify the path to a destination.
  • To display the geographical location of a place.
  • To study the boundaries of a state, city, country, continent or place.
  • To navigate the route of an aircraft.
  • Maps can be drawn to specify the location of apartments and other facilities.

Types of maps:

  • Thematic map: It is the map which shows specific information.
  • Example: The average rainfall distribution of different states of India or a weather forecasting map.

  • Political map: It is the map which shows the governmental boundaries of a place, state or country.
  • Example: A map of India showing the boundaries of each state.

  • Physical map: It is the map used to display the physical features like rivers, mountains, plateaus, or the location of a country.
  • Example: A map showing the mountain ranges in India.

Studying a map:

  • The study of maps is called cartography.
  • A map is studied based on its colour schemes or symbols.
  • A key is a document provided below the map on the right side to understand the purpose for which symbols or colour differentiation are used
  • Example:

  • The key given here specifies the colours that represent different states. Yellow stands for Himachal Pradesh, pink denotes Madhya Pradesh, red indicates Kerala and so on.
  • A key is not based on colours always. A key can also be used to represent the meaning of symbols or different types of lines used in a map.

Scale of a map:

  • The ratio of a distance on a map corresponding to the distance on the ground is called the scale of a map.
  • Example:The scale on the given map states that 1 cm on the map denotes 1 mile on the ground, i.e., the 1 cm distance you will measure on a flat map represents 1 mile of distance actually.

  • It is not possible to draw or present such a long distance on a small map; hence maps are drawn based on scales.
  • The scale may be different for different maps.

Symbols used in a map:

A mark, sign or word that visually represents a real-world feature on a map is called a symbol. They are also called cartographic symbols.



Locating the places in our neighbourhood using a map:

  • A map can be drawn to represent a building, a shopping complex, a society or a small city.
  • The symbols on a map can also be used to identify the places in our neighbourhood.


  • The given map shows a small area of a city. Rohan lives in the centre of the area.
  • Now looking at the map, can you decide the positions of different places with respect to Rohan’s house?
  • We get to know the following things by looking at this map—
    • A petrol pump is located in the West.
    • A bus stop is at the East.
    • A temple, school and post office are situated in the South.

New Words:

Visual: Something related to Sight.

Graphic: Something that involves engraving,drawing and lettering

Did You Know?

  • When the compass was not invented, stars were used to determine the directions at night.
  • The Pole Star seems stationary in the night sky, pointing in the North direction. The other directions were determined based on the position of the Pole Star.
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