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How to make a Choropleth Map

By Mark Warner
Age Range: 5 to 11

A choropleth map is a map which shows regions or areas which have the same characteristics. They are quite easy to make, especially when using the worksheet which can be found here.

The worksheet includes a number of diagrams which children have to look at and complete. The first diagram is the one shown below.

Each dot on the diagram represents a child playing in the school playground. The children in your class have to turn this random-looking arrangement of dots, into meaningful information. Complete instructions are included on the sheet for them to follow.

Instructions and Answers:

Dots with grid

After looking at diagram 1, the children's first task is to join up the markers on opposite sides of it. It is important that the children's lines are STRAIGHT, and join up the markers correctly. Inaccurate line-drawing might affect the results.

Once they have done this, the diagram should now look like the diagram shown on the left.

When this has been done, they have to count the number of children in each square, and transfer this data into the correct squares on diagram 2.

Grid with NumbersDiagram 2 should now look like the one on the right...

The next job is to draw a grid on diagram 3 (again joining the markers with straight lines), and colour in the squares using the correct colours. If there are 0, 1 or 2 people in a square, the children should colour in that square with LIGHT shadings. If there are 3, 4 or 5 people, colour it with MEDIUM shadings, and if there are 6, 7 or 8 people in the square, use DARK shading.

Diagram 3 (the finished choropleth map) should now look like the ones below:

Finished Choropleth Map

Now, the children should try to explain the arrangement of the children in the playground. Why are more children gathered around the top right area of the diagram? One answer might be that there are some swings / slides etc. located in this area. There are many possible answers which the children may come up with.

Other Related Activities:

1) Why not work out the actual data for the arrangement of the children in your playground. At the end of break / lunch time, blow a whistle and ask all children to stand perfectly still. Your class can then count how many children are in each "square" of the playground. Beforehand, you will obviously need to work out the boundaries of each square, and organize the children so they know which section they are going to work in.

2) Think of other possible contexts where this technique could be used to interpret information, e.g. situation of people on a beach, situation of animals in a field.

3) Get each child (or small group) of children to make their own arrangement of dots (and stating what they represent). Collect these together, jumble them up, and hand them back to different children (who then have to make a choropleth map using the diagram they have been given.

4) For OLDER children - The diagram shown here is an isoline map (based on the same arrangement of children as shown above). The lines join places of equal value. Show the children this diagram and discuss with them the advantages and disadvantages of showing the information using an isoline map and a choropleth map. They could also make a table showing their opinions.

Isoline Map

5) Ask the children to make their own isoline maps, by joining places of equal value.


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