Creating a map involves fitting the round, three-dimensional world onto a flat, two-dimensional surface. Using mathematics, mapmakers have created a variety of less-than-perfect solutions to this problem.
These solutions, known as map projections, can produce different maps depicting a particular place with very different appearances. On a flat map, conceptions of size, shape and distance are compromised in the projection process. All flat maps contain some type of distortion, but a conscientious cartographer chooses a projection that best correlates with their purpose for the map. When a cartographer chooses to draw a map on a small scale (that is, showing a greater amount of space in less detail), the map becomes more distorted since the difficulty of factoring in the curve of the earth becomes greater. On the other hand, a larger-scale map (which focuses on a smaller amount of space) offers fewer projection problems because there is less curvature to take into account.