Many Brits struggle to read paper maps – take quiz to test your knowledge

Have you got what it takes to complete the OS Map Reading challenge? Experts have put together the test, which features questions on map symbols, scale, and how to read contours, to allow people to evaluate their skills – which can be used on paper or digital maps.

It comes after a study of 2,000 adults revealed a struggle to read maps – with less than half aware of what contours are telling you.

Nearly four in ten (39 percent) want to brush up on their skills, with just 46 percent aware that a triangulation pillar shows the highest point of the land on an OS map.

And nearly a quarter don’t understand that the scale of a map tells you how much you would need to enlarge it to get the actual size.

Just 49 percent knew contours show the height of the land above sea level – with one in 20 (five percent) believing it highlighted the different colours of a hill or mountain.

However, if they were a more confident map reader, 46 percent reckon they would explore more of the countryside.

More than four in ten (41 percent) would go on more adventurous walks, and 23 percent think they would go outside with their family more often.

As a result, 61 percent feel map reading should be part of the curriculum from an early age.

Nick Giles OBE, MD of Leisure for Ordnance Survey, which commissioned the research ahead of National Map Reading Week (July 31st – August 6th), said: “Some people feel map reading is a forgotten art, but in many ways we now rely on them more than ever before – we’re just not always using them to their full potential.

“Whether it’s a traditional paper map, an online app, or even sat-nav, we are constantly using them to get us from A to B.

“But sometimes when you are in the great outdoors, relying on your phone to tell you exactly where you are and where you need to go is not possible – that’s when map reading skills can become an essential safety tool.

“Map reading can also help with problem solving and critical thinking skills, which in turn builds confidence, leadership skills, and self-esteem.

“It can help you find new places, grow trust in yourself to explore, and improve health and wellbeing.”

It also emerged that if they were lost and only had a paper map to hand, just 54 percent reckon they would be able to use it to find their way.

Instead, 23 percent would ask someone else for directions, and eight percent would try to retrace their steps and go back the way they came from.

Worryingly, rather than try to read the map, five percent would simply take a wild guess about where they should go – and the same percentage would simply panic.

But 16 percent admitted their lack of map reading skills or poor sense of direction has seen them get lost and end up in an unsafe situation.

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It comes after a separate poll of 1,000 parents, of children aged 7-14, also commissioned by Ordnance Survey, found they are determined to help youngsters develop the skills they need to explore the countryside.

A staggering 81 percent think their offspring would benefit from getting outdoors more often, with 28 percent concerned they don’t get out and about enough during school holidays.

And with parents running out of ideas to keep their children entertained just 16 days into the long six-week summer holidays, 85 percent would welcome tips of low-cost ways to keep them busy.

It comes as 54 percent of those polled, via OnePoll, claim their children’s only exposure to maps currently is via video games.

And nearly four in five (79 percent) also said they would like to help their children develop better problem-solving skills.

Nick Giles added: “Map reading is an important skill to have, not only to keep you safe, but also to allow you to be more adventurous as a family.

“It opens up the British countryside to you more, allowing you to spend more time with your loved ones exploring areas you might not previously have seen, which is great for mental well-being and social connection.

“Whether you use a paper map or OS Maps, it’s about building some basic map reading skills so all its benefits can be realised.”

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