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TPS Quarterly

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Maps and MapMakers: Seeing What’s On the Map Activity


In this activity, students examine Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world to discover a new way of thinking about what was important to the mapmaker. Students, working individually or in pairs, will look closely at different types of information on the map to consider choices the mapmaker made about what to put on the map, and what to leave off. They will hypothesize about what would have been the most important information to the mapmaker, consider the types of information they consider to be most important on the map, and later defend their conclusions in class discussion.


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • Describe how mapmakers work to create maps (i.e., adding different layers of information)
  • Analyze the details of a map to speculate about the map’s intended audience and use
  • Explain how a mapmaker’s choices about what information to include and highlight on a map are influenced by perspective

Time Required

One class period

Recommended Grade Range




Subject/ Sub-Subject

Pre-contact America, 1500s


McREL 4th Edition Standards and Benchmarks


Standard 1. (The World in Spatial Terms) Understands the characteristics and uses of maps, globes, and other geographic tools and technologies.

Standard 6. (Places and Regions) Understands that culture and experience influence people’s perceptions of places and regions

Standard 17. (Uses of Geography) Understands how geography is used to interpret the past

Language Arts

Standard 1. (Writing) Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process

Standard 9. (Viewing) Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

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