What is the distance on the earth's surface as measured by degrees north or south from the equator?

The North Pole is at 90 degrees north latitude, and the South Pole is at 90 degrees south latitude. So, distance north or south of the equator is called 'latitude'. One way to remember this is to think of the rungs of a ladder. "Ladder"-- "Lati-" you step up or down the 'rungs of ladder-tude'.