The most convenient way to identify points on the curved surface of the Earth is with a system of reference lines called parallels of latitude and meridians of longitude. On some maps the meridians and parallels appear as straight lines. On most modern maps, however, the meridians and parallels may appear as curved lines. These differences are due to the mathematical treatment required to portray a curved surface on a flat surface so that important properties of the map (such as distance and areal accuracy) are shown with minimum distortion. The system used to portray a portion of the round Earth on a flat surface is called a map projection.