Grid References: 4-Figure & 6-Figure

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  • 0:04 Grid System Example
  • 0:47 4-Figure Grid Reference
  • 1:44 6-Figure Grid Reference
  • 3:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Matthew Bergstresser

Matthew has a Master of Arts degree in Physics Education. He has taught high school chemistry and physics for 14 years.

Finding a location on a map can be challenging if you don't know where it is. This lesson will explain how a grid system consisting of 4-figure and 6-figure references helps to find any location on a map.

Grid System Example

Take a second and imagine you're on vacation spending the weekend at your grandparents' house in Columbia City, and your grandfather gives you a map. He tells you he has a surprise for you near 96th Avenue and South Oregon Street. What could the surprise be? He gives you a map, but it's small, and the writing is blurry. You can't find this intersection! What are you going to do? Your grandfather tells you if you learn the grid system he'll give you some hints about where to find the street intersection. Let's learn how to use a grid system.

When maps are made it is common to have a grid system, which are lines criss-crossing the map. There are two types of number sets that are used in reference to the grid system: 4-figure and 6-figure. These numbers are used to help find locations on the map.

4-Figure Grid Reference

A 4-figure grid reference contains 4 numbers. For example, you might be given the number 3422. The first two numbers are called the easting, which is the number you would look for at the bottom of the map. The second two numbers are called the northing and represent the numbers you would look for on the side of the map. Where these two sets of numbers intersect is the bottom, left corner of the square where you would find what you are looking for.


Your grandfather gives you the 4-figure grid reference 1331. The intersection of these grid lines is the bottom left corner of the square where the surprise is. Looking at the bottom green numbers, you find the easting number 13. Then you move up (northward) to the horizontal red line representing the purple number 31, which is the northing. Of the four squares on this map, our square is at the top right (containing the North arrow). This is a big help in locating the street intersection where your surprise is, but it's still a big area to cover. We can get more specific if we use a 6-number grid.


6-Figure Grid Reference

A 6-figure grid reference contains 6 numbers which gives us an even more precise location inside the box given by the 4-figure number. Inside each box, imagine 10 tick marks along the eastings and 10 tick marks along the northings. These marks are generally not provided on maps. Let's interpret a 6-figure number, 344223.

The first two numbers are the easting, which is the same as in the 4-number grid. The third number represents how many tenths you need to move east from the easting value. In our 6-number example, our third number is 4, which represents four-tenths more to the east. In other words, go east just shy of half-way to the next easting.

The fourth and fifth numbers are the northing value, which is the same as in the 4-number grid. The last number represents how many tenths you need to move north from the northing location given. In our 6-number example, the last number is 3 which represents 3/10 more to the north of the northing value. In other words, go north roughly a third of the way to the next grid line.


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