We can’t read maps, but we should

Rewon Shimray | Cartoonist

If you were to survey Baylor students and ask them if they are able to read a map, how many would say they are able to? But not just any map, a map that is just county lines. No highways to find your location and Dallas and Houston aren’t marked either. Just county lines.


Credit: Texas Association of Counties

It gets a little harder, doesn’t it?

A survey conducted by MyVoucherCodes.co.uk found that 67 percent of under-25s can’t read a map. Not a county line map pictured above, but a normal map with highways and cities labeled.

You may be asking, “Why is this an issue? I have my phone.” I’ll give you that, but what happens when your phone dies? Your GPS that you use a crutch is no longer available, and you have to rely on road signs and directions from word of mouth.

Another reason this is an issue is reading weather maps. When meteorologists pull up their radar, they have the major cities in the county labeled but usually nothing else. They have county lines but other than that, it’s typically up to the viewer to figure out what the weather will be in their area.

Weatherman James Spann from Channel 33/40 had an off-script moment on Twitter about why it’s important for people to read maps.

Spann explained that it’s not only those under-25 that can’t read his maps, but it’s adults, too. His big point that he made was, “If you can’t identify where you live on a map, you’re just in big trouble.”

If you’re in the midst of a big storm, and you’re relying on the TV to tell you updates on the weather, will you be able to tell where you are in relation to where the storm is headed?

It’s completely normal to not know where you are on a weather map considering most people don’t either, but it’s not an excuse to not know how to read a map. Take some time to research weather maps and learn what they could mean for you. Also, use GPS maps as a tool to get you oriented, and then try navigating frequently visited areas on your own.

It’s important to know how to read a map in case things go wrong with your GPS. It is always a good back-up.