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Scales, Maps and Ratios I



A scale compares the distance on a map to the actual distance on the ground. Scales can be depicted in a few different ways:


Graphic scale

A graphic scale represents a scale by using a small line with markings similar to a ruler. One side of the line represents the distance on the map, while the other side represents the true distances of objects in real life. By measuring the distance between two points on a map and then referring to the graphic scale, we can calculate the actual distance between those points.

In this picture, you can see that one centimetre on the scale represents $250$250 kilometres in real life.

Verbal scale

A verbal scale uses words to describe the ratio between the map's scale and the real world. For example, we could say "One centimetre equals fifteen kilometres" or we could write it as $1$1cm = $15$15km. This means that one centimetre on the map is equivalent to $15$15 kilometres in the real world.


Scale Ratio

Some maps use a representative fraction to describe the ratio between the map and the real world. If you need a refresher about ratios, see Looking at Relationships between Different Groups. We write scale ratios for maps just like other ratios with the colon in the middle. For example $1:100000$1:100000.



Question 1

Convert the following description to a proper scale ratio: $5$5cm on the map = $25$25m in real life.

Remember we need to have our two quantities in the same unit of measurement in a ratio. I'm going to convert everything to centimetres.

$25$25m $=$= $25\times100$25×100 cm
  $=$= $2500$2500 cm

Once we have equivalent quantities, we can write it as a scale ratio.

$5:2500$5:2500 $=$= $1:500$1:500


Question 2

Question: Given that the scale on a map is $1$1:$50000$50000, find the actual distance between two points that are $8$8 cm apart on the map.

Think: This means that $1$1 cm on the map represents $50000$50000cm (or $500$500m) in real life.

Do: So to work out how far $8$8cm represents, we need to multiply $8$8 by $50000$50000. Then convert to km. 

$8\times50000$8×50000 $=$= $400000$400000 cm
  $=$= $4000$4000 m
  $=$= $4$4 km


Now let's look at how we can do this process in reverse.

Question 3

Given that the scale of a map of a garden is $1$1:$2000$2000 , how far apart should two fountains be drawn on the map if the actual distance between the fountains is $100$100 m? Express your answer in centimetres.

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