Cartography and Children

Children's Mental Thinking

4105.4 - Children and map-reading

Tuesday, July 4
9:30 AM - 9:50 AM
Location: Virginia C

To most people, using a map appears to be a straightforward and quite natural task, without more requirements than normal vision and average intelligence (Keates, 1996). The idea is quite interesting when compared with the number of years of formal education devoted to other primary means of communication in our society, language and mathematics. Orienteering is definitely a physically demanding sport were the map-reader tries to find as quickly as possible, with the help of a map and compass, the controls marked on the map (Seiler, 1996). The order of the controls is fixed, but the map-reader is free to choose their way. This process, to find one's way through unknown terrain with the help of only map and compass involves a number of cognitive processes (Ottosson, 1987; Johansen, 1997). Neither projection, symbolization, nor scale are crucial problems (Ottosson, 1988). Rather we can say that map understanding is based on an understanding of spatial relationships between real-world features (Ottosson, 1988). This paper argues that success in this process relies on a mutual dependence between the map-reader, the map and the terrain. However, the relative importance of each of these components to an individual’s overall performance in the terrain is a debated issue (Sigurjónsson, 2007).

Aim and objectives for the study
The aim of this study was to generate data to characterize the interplay between the map-reader, the map and the terrain.

Data were generated from audio and videotaped fieldwork, using head mounted cameras, in a naturalistic setting with follow-up conversations where specific situations from the fieldwork were watched on a television. The method focused on children’s attention towards the map and towards the environment around them. Two studies were carried out; one of them took place in a school area (16 children - 8 girls and 8 boys aged 5:11 to 9:7) and the other took place in woodland in the neighborhoods of the school (12 children - 6 girls and 6 boys aged 9:11 to 12:6).

The data indicated that it was possible to characterize children’s behavior in two ways;
* Poor interaction in the interplay
* Limited readiness for the forthcoming movement in the terrain
* Focus on direction
* Retrospective map reading
* The map reader exhibited hesitancy, and active reflection during which he or she tried to focus on specific terrain detail on the map
* Unfocused map reading, are easily distracted
* Inadequate readiness
* Passive search - “mechanical” actions
* Attention was pointed towards direction and less towards specific terrain detail
* Experienced discrepancy in map reading

Close interaction in the interplay
* Clearly defined readiness for the forthcoming movement in the terrain
* Focal awareness
* Exchange between prospective and retrospective map reading
* Active interaction between
• the map reader
• the map
• the terrain
* Full involvement in map reading
* Appropriate readiness
* Actively seeking for potential affordances
* Wide attention - delimits the reality
* Experienced dynamic process
* Interplay between readiness and conducted action

An important finding in the study was that a symbolic map experiences as a difficult aid for the beginner child. Therefore, children had difficulties in building up a good state of readiness for their locomotion in the terrain. The results suggest that cognitive expertise in the real world represents a key factor in teaching in orienteering and that this accelerates the development of visual attention towards relevant terrain details.

Thorsteinn Sigurjonsson

Dr. Associate professor
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

Dr. Thorsteinn Sigurjonsson has 25 years’ experience with teacher training connected to physical education (PE). One of his main subject is teaching orienteering to children and novice students. The title of his doctoral thesis is "Children's map-reading: an interaction between map-reader, map and terrain." Thorsteinn works in close interaction with the Norwegian orienteering federadion and contributes in their coaching programmes.


Send Email for Thorsteinn Sigurjonsson

José Jesús Reyes Nunez

Associate Professor
Eotvos Lorand University, Faculty of Informatics, Dept. of Cartography and Geoinformatics

José Jesús Reyes Nunez is Associate Professor at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. His research interests lie in Cartography for Children, Geovisualization, GIS-based Cartography, Web Cartography and Pre-columbian Cartography. Author of more than 20 articles in scientific publications and more than 50 papers in different events. Responsible for the organization of the Barbara Petchenik Map Competition in Hungary from 1999 and President of the International Jury in 2005 and 2007. He was Chair of the ICA Commission on Cartography and Children from 2007 to 2015, currently Vice-Chair . ICA awarded him with the Diploma for Outstandings Services in 2015.


Send Email for José Jesús Reyes Nunez


4105.4 - Children and map-reading


Attendees who have favorited this

Please enter your access key

The asset you are trying to access is locked. Please enter your access key to unlock.

Send Email for Children and map-reading