• 1. What do you already know about maps?
    Look at the outline map of the world. Then look at the outline map of the United States. What do you already know about these maps? Circle any familiar things you see. What do you notice that may be new to you? Underline or list any things that you want to know more about. Compare your answers to your family member’s answers.


    2. Find lines of latitude and longitude.
    Now look at the U.S. map. Find the lines running across and up and down the page. The lines running across the page are lines of latitude. The lines running up and down the page are lines of longitude. Write those labels on the maps to help you remember. Latitude runs 0–90° north and south. Longitude runs 0–180° east and west. The lines are not real lines on the ground. Why do you think these lines might have been drawn on the map? What do you think the patterns of numbers might mean?


    3. Figure out your latitude and longitude.
    Find the approximate location of your town and mark it with a dot. If your location is in between lines, look at the pattern of numbers and figure out what number your location might be. What is its latitude and longitude? Practice figuring out the latitude and longitude of other places. What city is at approximately 30°N, 90°W? What city is at approximately 40°N, 105°W? (Answers: New Orleans, Louisiana; Denver, Colorado)


    4. Find landmarks with the same latitude.
    Choose one of the three locations above. Find two landmarks, such as cities or physical features, with the same latitude as your location. Then find two landmarks with the same longitude as your location.


    5. Reflect on what you know.
    Why are latitude and longitude helpful map tools? How do latitude and longitude help you to identify specific locations? How easy or difficult would it be to pinpoint a location on a globe without using a coordinate system?

  • Materials You Provide

    • Pencils
    • Pens

    Required Technology

    • Internet Access: Optional

    Recommended Prior Activities

  • Background Information

    Latitude and longitude make up the grid system that helps us identify absolute, or exact, locations on the Earth’s surface. You can use latitude and longitude to identify specific locations. Latitude and longitude are also helpful in identifying landmarks.


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    degree Noun

    unit of measurement for latitude and longitude.

    landmark Noun

    a prominent feature that guides in navigation or marks a site.

    latitude Noun

    distance north or south of the Equator, measured in degrees.

    Encyclopedic Entry: latitude
    longitude Noun

    distance east or west of the prime meridian, measured in degrees.

    Encyclopedic Entry: longitude