Identifying U.S. States on a Map

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Want to learn some easy ways to identify states on the map of the U.S.? This lesson is full of some great tricks to help learn the location of a bunch of different states.

Identifying U.S. States on a Map

An orange and a mandarin are the same color, yet you can tell them apart because of their size. A banana and a yellow apple are the same color, yet we can tell them apart thanks to their clearly different shapes. If you can do that, then you can use these same easy principles to identify a lot of states on a map of the U.S.

While this lesson won't cover every single state, it will give you a lot to go on. Use 'The 50 United States' map image as a guide as we go over everything.

The 50 United States
A Map of the 50 States

Michigan, Oklahoma, & Louisiana

Let's turn our attention to Michigan. This state is really easy to spot because it looks like one of those oven mitts you use when baking something. Of course, this is the largest part of Michigan, because Michigan is actually split into the Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula, the one that actually looks like a mitt.

If you divert your eyes a bit south and west from Michigan, closer to the middle of the continental U.S., you'll see a state that looks like a pot you would have sitting on that same stove. That is the state of Oklahoma. Maybe you're cooking all this stuff to celebrate a holiday? And so, now move your eyes just a tiny bit south and then east from Oklahoma. Do you see the state that looks like a Christmas stocking? That is the state of Louisiana.

Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, & Other Familiar Shapes

Up at the northwest part of the continental U.S. lies a state that looks like a home with a long chimney running up towards Canada. Perhaps it's an oven chimney or a fireplace chimney where chestnuts are being roasted over an open fire. That is the state of Idaho. Idaho is being watched very closely by its neighbor to the east, Montana. Can you see the 'face' (forehead, eyes, nose and chin) of Montana bordering Idaho? South of Montana are two boxes. Well, they're not boxes really, but they are states that look like rectangular holiday gift boxes stacked on top of one another. They are Wyoming up top and Colorado towards the bottom.

All the way to the West of the continental U.S. is the state of California which look like a slightly bent knee to me. To the east of California is a sharp, razorblade-like state of Nevada. Maybe we need that sharp edge to help open up some of our presents?

All the way on the eastern side of the U.S. is the state of New Hampshire, which also looks like a house with a chimney celebrating the holidays, much like Idaho, but on different sides of the U.S. South of New Hampshire is a state that looks like it has a boot that is about to kick something. Maybe a soccer ball someone got for the holidays? That's the state of Massachusetts. Staying on the East Coast, but headed south, you may recognize a state that looks like a diamond, another great gift idea, and that is South Carolina. Think of South Carolina as a girl, because what girl doesn't like diamonds, being sat on by her brother up top North Carolina.

Corners, Sizes, and Unique Locations

Not all states have readily identifiable shapes. Thus, we must look at other features or unique pointers to easily identify them. South of Massachusetts is the smallest state in the U.S. This tiny little thing is called Rhode Island.

Our largest and northern-most state is Alaska. Our second largest state is the Lone Star State, Texas, which also looks like the back of someone's right hand giving the loser sign. No offense to any Texans out there is implied. The only state that consists entirely of islands is the state of Hawaii, located far southwest of the continental U.S., in the Pacific Ocean.

Note How Alaska is the Northernmost State in the USA
A Map of North America

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account