Educator Resources for Map Projections

Maps can help you visualize our world, or get from point A to point B. But even the best ones aren't totally accurate. That's because when you try to flatten a 3D globe onto a 2D map, certain aspects don’t quite translate: distance, direction, or the size or shape of features. So, cartographers have created a wide range of map projections, using different methods to transfer locations from our planet onto a flat surface. The most familiar projection, created by Gerardus Mercator, has perfectly accurate direction. That makes it ideal for navigating. But because of how latitude and longitude lines get stretched, shapes and sizes end up distorted, especially near the poles. Every type of map projection—equal-area, compromise, interrupted—comes with its own distortions, and different projections suit different purposes best. No matter which projection you use, it's important to understand how its distortions affect your understanding of the world. Want to learn more? Click "play" to take a step in the right direction!