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Blackberry's avatar

What's the best way to memorize the states of the continental US?

Asked by Blackberry (32554points) July 6th, 2012

I’m a meteorology student. We’re coming up on the weather briefing section. This will involve referring to weather systems by location, of course. I have most of the states down, but get confused in the Midwest and northeastern tip.

Are there any tips one can use to memorize the states?

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20 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

I know them all now alphabetically, but have trouble actually labeling the big, blocky states near the Canadian border east of Washington and west of Michigan.

Living in the northeastern tip, I know these. You mean Maine, NH, Vt, MA., RI, CT, NY, etc?

I also have some problems with W. Va., Kentucky, Tennessee and whatever else lurks in that area.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It’s understandable that there is confusion for those two areas when having to identify them on the map. My recommendation would be to use an online quiz site, like this one, to practice memorizing the states’ shapes and locations.

Blackberry's avatar

Yeah. I know where NY and Maine are, but the rest are tricky.

jaytkay's avatar

My sixth grade teacher (Hi, Mr. Foley!) taught us to locate all the countries on Earth, all the US states and all their capitals.

Here’s how we did it. – Print a bunch of blank maps. Write in all the state names you know. Look up the others. Repeat until you know them all.

The next goal is drawing the US map freehand. Al Franken does it in 2 minutes, Here’s video from 1987. Skip to 6:30 to see the feat.


CWOTUS's avatar

Whatever you do, don’t ask anyone from California or New York to help with this.

jrpowell's avatar

New Hampshire is shaped like a “N”. Vermont looks like a “V”. The rest is easy.

chyna's avatar

Keep your middle finger and thumb out, the rest of your fingers down. This is the shape of WV. (Hand facing towards yourself.)

gailcalled's avatar

@chyna: I see only a spastic claw that seems to be giving me the finger.

gailcalled's avatar

How someone on 9th Ave. in NYC sees the rest of the world

Saul Steinberg’s map

chyna's avatar

@gailcalled And now you know the shape of WV.

JLeslie's avatar

@CWOTUS hahahahahaha! That’s hysterical.

The trick is to learn some states that are easy for you to remember and then remember what surrounds those states. Do it in sections. Learn the northeast really well. Then the south. Then the west, etc. If you have driven long distances usually you know the order in which you passed through the states to get to where you are going. Probably ou can place at least 20 states right now without studying. Your in MS, TN is to the north, LA and AL would be easy for you to put on the map now.

I recommend getting blank maps, and writing in the states. Physically writing them with a pen or pencil. You can cheat the first time, and the action of writing them will start to engrave it into your brain. Then repeat several times without trying to do as much as you can without cheating. Just staring at the map will not put it in your brain like writing.

@johnpowell gave you my hint for Vermont and New Hampshire. Although, I just remember the Vermont like a V, not the other part, but I know those states are side by side. I know the east coast pretty well because I lived there. Maine is up at the top in the northeast, just think very very cold. Michigan has two parts, lower and upper peninsulas. I know Ohio is below it, wisconsin to the west. I know where to find Chicago, and that it is at the top of the state of Illinois. Tennessee is long east to west. Oklahoma has the little handle. The big square states out west trip me up a little. West coast there is only three states. Texas is easy, Florida is easy. If you know where North Carolina is you can find South Carolina. If you know where Florida is can find Georgia. If you know where Virgina is you cam find West VA. If you know where North Dakota is, you can find South Dakota.

jordym84's avatar

Try this for practice: Sporcle

mazingerz88's avatar

@Blackberry Her bottomless pit of wisdom will show you the right path to take, young Jedi.

Sunny2's avatar

I break the country into areas: New England; Middle Coastal down to Florida; New York state and down etc. It doesn’t matter how you divide them. Whatever works for you. Then, I do it by visualization. Position in the area, shape of the state, again, whatever works for you. Try to draw the general map until you can. Or use printed map blanks to practice. @JLeslie has some good ideas.

Kardamom's avatar

You could also do something like a combination of flash cards and pin the tail on the donkey. Make the flash cards (by cheating and looking at a real map) with the shape of the state on one side and the name of the state on the other side. Then get yourself a big blank map, that roughly corresponds to the size of your flash cards. If you really want to be tricky, cut the shapes of the states, rather than using square cards with the state drawn on the square.

Then have a friend hold up a card or state shape facing you (they’ll be looking at the name of the state). Then you start guessing, until you get the name correct. When you do, then pin that shape state to the area where you think it goes. Then just keep practicing until you get it down.

This would be even more fun with beer. Each time you get one wrong, you have to take a sip of beer : P

gailcalled's avatar

@Kardamom: The difficulty with the shapes is the many states that are almost square or rectangular: Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, N, Dakota, S. Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, Oregon, and to a slightly lesser extent, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Alabama.

CWOTUS's avatar

@Kardamom‘s advice is good. But I’d go a step (or two) further.

Name and place the State’s capital on the map of the state. Include several prominent geographical features, such as mountain ranges, rivers (especially the ones forming borders) and oceans, bays and islands, peninsulas and capes, for example.

The more you know, the easier it will be to know more.

Kardamom's avatar

Yeah, I was a little concerned about the square states, but I was hoping that maybe somebody from those states could explain to us how the shapes are slightly different. I do like the idea of adding in the surrounding geography, that would probably help.

Or what would be even more fun, would be for all of us Jellies to load up on a couple of buses and actually go to all of these states!!! Woot, road trip!

CWOTUS's avatar

I’ve never lived in either, but I think that Wyoming’s shape is slightly less square than Colorado’s, since the lines of longitude that form its eastern and western borders are farther north than the ones for Colorado, so they start to converge more rapidly at the northern ends. In other words, more of a trapezoid, less of a square. It’s also somewhat smaller than Colorado. But it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way when you drive through it. I can guaran-damn-tee that.

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