How to Use Cartography to Learn Geography

  • Cartography [ kahr-tog-ruh-fee ] noun 1. the science and art of making maps
  • Geography [ jee-og-ruh-fee ] noun 1. the science dealing with the areal differentiation of the earth’s surface

So “Cartography for Geography” is where we create/draw maps in order to learn about the earth’s surface.

Drawing maps is such a great way to learn geography. It combines visual and kinesthetic activities while helping a student notice details. You don’t have to produce a beautiful map in order to learn the shapes of places or their names. The goal is just to learn!

It’s easy- I promise! Let me show you.

Drawing in Cartography

How to Succeed with Cartography

I’ve been writing about working through a cartography class with my son in his 7th-grade year and I highly encourage you to check out those posts:

Drawing in Challenge: How to Avoid Tears and Enjoy LearningThe 5 main challenges most students face with trying to draw maps in Cartography and how to address them. (References to Classical Conversations do not constitute or imply endorsement by the company.)

5 Practical Tools for Drawing MapsThe 5 ways you can approach the art and science of drawing maps.

How to Set up a Community Map Challenge- I did this when I directed a Classical Conversations Foundations (K-6th grade) community and we all traced maps all week long. It was GREAT preparation for Cartography!

How to Schedule a Year of Cartography– Ideas for what to draw each day and a schedule for how to divide the world up into a 30-week or 36-week school year.

boy holding hand drawn map

Drawing to Memorize Geography series

To help you and your students use cartography to learn geography, We created a series of digital downloads you can print with step-by-step drawings of each area of the world and a final download to help you put them all together on one map:

We’ve bundled all 11 of these files together in one convenient package, at a nice discount!

Maps of Asia


Send me your questions on Facebook or via email: julie (at)

What kind of paper do you use for drawing maps?

We used a mix of blank printer paper (which we 3-hole punched) and loose-leaf graph paper. (FiveStar is my favorite brand of graph paper BY FAR!) We put everything in a 3 ring binder to keep it organized.

Other Cartography Resources

  • University of Texas Libraries Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection has thousands of maps online that you can view or download. It also has links to other sites with interesting cartography resources like distance calculators, glossaries, tide predictions, and more!
  • D-maps has many different simplified maps you can choose from (although there are a LOT of pesky ads on the site).
  • Seterra has free printable and online map quizzes and a cheap app.
  • Sheppard Software has online fun games and quizzes.
  • 50 Map Projections Types: A Visual Reference Guide from GIS Geography
  • Exploring the World Through Cartography is an atlas-type book created by Classical Conversations to be read along with the 7th grade (Challenge A) year. The book includes many pictures of beautiful antique maps and photos of featured locations. The text addresses cultural, geographical, and historical ideas.
  • Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall is a narrative non-fiction book about how elements of geography have played critical roles in both historical and current events. Our family really enjoyed listening to the audiobook while we draw maps!

What’s been your experience with map-making? Got any questions or tips you want to share? Let me know on Facebook or via email: julie (at)

Cartography class

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