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Magnetism Concepts

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

Misconceptions (Explanations, Naive understanding, Misconceptions, or Perceptual responses)

  1. Magnets only attract
  2. Magnets repel non metals
  3. Magnets stick to everything. Magnets attract to all metals. Stick to anything metal.
  4. Magnets are made of plastic.
  5. Magnets only attract to iron
  6. The larger the magnet the stronger the pull
  7. Magnetism is like iron filings
  8. Magnetic fields are two dimensional like the pictures in the book.
  9. Only magnets have magnetic fields.
  10. Magnetism causes the objects to attract and repel.
  11. Larger magnets are stronger.
  12. Magnetism is magic.
  13. Magnetic poles = n and s pole.
  14. Magnetism doesn't go through objects.
  15. Magnetism will be blocked by materials that are insulators.

Beginning (preschool - 7 years)


  1. Possible prior knowledge to Kindergarten - Magnets attracted to metal - refrigerator magnet, metal shavings, magnet doodle, Thomas The Train, various magnets, magnetic calendar.
  2. Magnets interact with each other and certain kinds of materials.

Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)


  1. Like poles repel. Unlike poles attract.
  2. The Earth has magnetic poles.
  3. Magnets interact with iron, nickel, and cobalt.

Literate (11+)


  1. Electricity and magnetism can exert a force on each other.
  2. Magnets interact with iron, cobalt, nickel (metal).
  3. Force of magnet is not dependent on its size.
  4. Earth has magnetic poles - north and south .
  5. Like poles repel.
  6. Opposite poles attract.
  7. Electricity and magnetism interact.
  8. If a compass breaks or a magnet is broken in half, you have two magnets, each with poles.
  9. Computer disk data can be erased with a magnet.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes