<Physical Science Misconceptions & Concepts
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Physical Science Misconceptions & Concepts

Overview

See more science misconceptions & concepts:

Science Standards archives

Organization of information

Topic

Misconceptions - Initial perceptual naive ideas for all ages
(Explanations for people's misconceptions: naive understandings & perceptual responses)

Beginning concepts (preschool - 7 years)

Intermediate concepts (7 years - 11 years)

Literate concepts (11+)

Educator notes

 

  • Matter - Properties, interactions, states (solid, liquid, gas), mixtures and solutions, air, density, chemical, air pressure, aerodynamics, and nuclear Vibrations, waves, energy, fields, matter, & particle notes
  • Chemical
  • Force, motion, interactions, stability, and instability; gravity, weight, weightlessness
  • Energy conservation and transfer of energy, waves and their properties, relationship of energy and force.
    • Sound
    • Light
    • Heat
    • Electricity
    • Magnetism electro magnetism
    • Chemical
    • Nuclear
    • Solar
  • Waves & Electromagnetic radiation

 

Matter

Misconceptions - Initial perceptual naive (any age)
(Explanations for people's misconceptions: naive understandings & perceptual responses)

Properties of Matter

  1. Color, texture, and other properties are not relative to the matter. They are different things. Color is like paint, not a property of the matter itself.
  2. Matter is always small
  3. Particles are side by side or there are air particles.
  4. There is air between air molecules.
  5. Energy, heat and/or sound are forms of matter.
  6. Matter is not conserved, it disappears or appears during processes such as dissolving, burning, evaporation, boiling, rotting, respiration, rusting, condensation, and growth of plants.
  7. Scientific Concepts
  8. Weight is another name for gravitational force.
  9. Weight is the force exerted by an object against a support and is equal to the force exerted by the support on the object.
  10. Weightlessness is never absolute, there is always some, maybe very small weight.
  11. Gravitational force and weight being the same, decrease with increasing distance from the Earth?
  12. Misconceptions
  13. Weightlessness is a result of being in space.
  14. Weightlessness only happens in a space vehicle.
  15. Weightlessness happens with the absence of air.
  16. Weightlessness happens when an object leaves Earth.
  17. Emptiness or nothingness creates weightlessness.
  18. Free fall near Earth does not have weightlessness.
  19. There is an additional force involved with free fall.

States of Matter: solid, liquid, and gas

  1. Different states are different kinds of matter. Ice, water, water gas are all different substances.
  2. Materials can only have properties of one state of matter
  3. Food is a solid, toys are, window, something that is hard, it doesn't break, wood, you can feel it, you can look at it.
  4. Particles of solids have no motion

Solid

  1. Solids are never hollow, have no holes,
  2. Solids are heavy, hard, hard to carry,

Liquid

  1. Liquid is something you can drink, sugar is liquid you can drink, fruit is liquid because it is juicy,
  2. Ice is a liquid, an igloo is liquid
  3. A liquid is flat, runny
  4. You can feel it, you can push it
  5. A liquid is gas (gasoline)
  6. Liquids are not matter because we drink them
  7. Liquids are things you drink
  8. Liquids spill and run all over
  9. Liquids can be compressed (liquids in a plastic bottle).
  10. Liquids have water in them
  11. The thicker the liquid the heavier, more dense it is
  12. Only water can melt, boil, freeze

Gas

  1. Gases are not matter because they are invisible
  2. Gases have no mass
  3. Gases float
  4. Smoke is a gas
  5. When things burn they all turn into a gas or all turns into smoke.
  6. Most gases are poisonous
  7. Air and oxygen are the same thing
  8. Helium and hot are the same thing
  9. Gases are invisible
  10. Gas is a fart.
  11. Gas is gasoline, natural gas, propane
  12. Gas is black
  13. Gas is flat
  14. Gas is a structure - tent, building
  15. Air is not a gas.
  16. Air particles float.
  17. Air particles are not moving when there is no wind.
  18. Air has no mass, it is light because we can not see it, air does not take up space.
  19. Air had no mass or negative weight.
  20. Air is not affected by gravity.
  21. Helium has negative weight.
  22. Air is about the size of dust particles in air.

Density

  1. Heavy objects always sink and light objects always float.
  2. Weight determines if an object will sink or float.
  3. A larger heavier object will not float as well as a smaller lighter object of the same material.
  4. The amount of water will cause objects to float or sink better.
  5. There must be more water for larger objects to float. Weight of the water must be more than the weight of the object.
  6. Objects with holes will always sink.
  7. Objects with air float.
  8. Objects float on top of the liquid.
  9. Fish don’t float unless they are dead.
  10. Objects sink because there is more water than oil. If there were more oil, the oil would be on the bottom.
  11. Water is on the bottom, because it was poured in first.
  12. Density is the thickness of something
  13. Oil is always on top because it repels water, corn syrup has some oil in it and it would be between oil and water, anything mixed with oil separates
  14. The more air pockets in something the more it will float. Wax, ice, has lots of air pockets in it and floats.
  15. Liquids are liquids and will all mix together

Matter and interactions of matter

 

Mixtures and solutions

  1. Sugar, salt, kool-aid… in water it disappears. It gets smaller and smaller until it is gone (molecules or atoms shrink or disappear). The dissolved substance doesn't take up any space.
  2. Taste or color don't have substance (not associated with particles or atoms).
  3. It melts, turns into a liquid.
  4. Powders put in water will sink or float.
  5. It goes from water to another kind of liquid
  6. If you add more and more half will turn to water and half will not
  7. When you put jello, kool-aid into water it evaporates in a puff
  8. When you put jello, kool-aid, rocks, into water it turns a darker color
  9. The powder changes chemically and you can never change it back
  10. If you keep adding more a chemical reaction will happen
  11. The water is absorbing the powder

Surface tension

  1. Drop of liquid on a penny: - The number of drops that fit will depend on how flat the penny is (the size of the penny).
  2. One drop will cover the entire penny.
  3. Depends on the size of the ridge on the penny.
  4. Depends on how far you drop the drops onto the penny.
  5. Clear liquids will be the same opaque liquids will hold more because they are thicker.
  6. Thick liquids will fit more than thin liquids because they are thicker and will stay on and build up. (stickier?).
  7. The water drops form together and build up.
  8. The temperature will make a difference. Hotter water will be less than cold because the particles move faster.
  9. Pennies dropped into a jar full of water: shape of the glass distorts your view so you can put more in than you think. The lip of the glass lets the water go above the rim. The pennies are smaller than you think.

Air and air pressure

  1. Air = wind and is made my trees, blowing, fans, …made when it is captured, balloons, bags
  2. Air in only found in sky
  3. Bubbles in boiling water is made of air.
  4. Air does not have any weight.
  5. There are two types of air pressure: high and low
  6. When air is heated it expands and causes high pressure
  7. When air is cooled it contracts and causes low pressure
  8. Egg in a bottle: Heat brought oils, water out of egg and it slid into the bottle.
    Heat melted some of the egg so it got smaller and fell into the bottle
    The fire sucked the egg into the bottle.
    You can just blow the balloon up or push it in with a pencil
    Put balloon over bottle fill with water and the water will push it in. Then let the water evaporate and it will stay in.

Aerodynamics

  1. Paper planes students didn't have concept of gravity as pulling plane down. Also The higher up an object is in the air the more air is pushing down on it.
    Hard throwing causes the plane to go less or spiral to the ground and crash.
    Nose has to be pointed. Makes it go farther and guides it better.
    The larger the surface area of the wings the more the air could lift the plane.

Nuclear

  1. Nuclear energy is a different kind of energy. Has something to do with mass.

 

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

Properties of Matter

  1. Objects have many observable properties, including color, texture, size, weight, shape, temperature, and the ability to interact with other objects.
  2. Objects are described and identified by their properties.
  3. Objects can be separated or sorted into groups of objects or materials by their properties.
  4. Properties can be observed better with scientific tools, such as hand lenses to see small objects, using similar objects as measuring devices, and body parts to sense temperature.
  5. Heating or cooling can change some common materials, such as water.

States of Matter

  1. Matter takes up space.
  2. Materials exist in different states- solid, liquid, and gas.
  3. Different states have different properties.
  4. Solids maintain there shape. However, they can be in all sizes and shapes.
  5. They maintain their shapes as they are moved (rotated, poured...)
  6. Solids can support denser materials on their surfaces.
  7. Solids can be separated by screens.
  8. Some solids change when mixed with water (dissolve) others form a layer below or above the surface.

Liquids

  1. Liquids pour and flow.
  2. When liquids are put in a container they will take the shape of their container from the bottom up with the surface parallel to the surface of the Earth.
  3. Liquids can have properties of transparent, translucent, opaque, viscous, free flowing, foamy.

Gas

  1. Gases will spread throughout its container or dissipate and flow from an opening in the container.
  2. Gases are matter. (Take up space and have mass)

Density of Matter

  1. Some materials float and others sink.

Matter and Interactions of Matter

  1. Objects can be identified by the materials from which they are made.
  2. Objects may be made of one or more materials (paper, cloth, wood, clay, and metal).
  3. Interactions can change some materials properties.
  4. Not all materials change in the same way when interacting with other objects.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

Properties of Matter

  1. Objects have many observable properties, including color, texture, size, shape, mass, volume, temperature, and the ability to interact with other objects.
  2. Properties can be measured with scientific tools and compared to a standard unit (linear, time, temperature, mass, and volume)

States of Matter

  1. Heating and cooling changes the properties of some materials.
  2. Water expands when it freezes and contracts when it melts. As a result ice floats. Cold water sinks to the bottom of warmer water.
  3. Many changes of matter occur faster when heated.

Density of Matter

  1. Objects float or sink in relation to their mass, shape, and size.
  2. Density isn't the same as mass.
  3. Density isn't the same as volume.
  4. Density isn't the same as size.
  5. Equal volumes of different substances usually have different masses.

Matter and Interactions of Matter

  1. A substance has properties, such as density, a boiling point, and solubility, that are independent of the amount of the sample.
  2. A mixture of substances often can be separated into the original substances using one or more of the characteristic properties.
  3. The mass of a system is equal to the sum of its subsystems.
  4. Materials are composed of particles that are too small to see without magnification.
  5. Many changes of matter occur faster when heated.

Mixtures and solutions

  1. Mixture, Solution, dissolving, solvent, solute

Surface tension

  1. Surface tension is caused by a strong attraction of the particules. It is formed when the particles pull together.

Air and air pressure

  1. Egg in a bottle: Fire in bottle, then put Egg on top of bottle activity heat expanded air egg sealed bottle air cooled contracted air pressure outside pushed egg into bottle
    Blow up a balloon in bottle

Aerodynamics

  1. Planes float on air because of their wings.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

Properties of Matter

  1. Objects have many observable properties, including color, texture, size, shape, mass, volume, density, temperature, chemical, energy, and the ability to interact with other objects.
  2. Properties can be measured with scientific tools and compared to a standard unit (linear, time, temperature, mass, volume, and density)

States of Matter

  1. Exchange of thermal energy causes the change of the state of matter.
  2. Solids are closely locked in position and can only vibrate.
  3. Liquids are more loosely connected and slide past each other and some gain energy and escape as a gas.
  4. Gases have more energy of motion and are free of one another except for collisions.
  5. Matter is in continual motion and as it gains heat energy it usually expands and as it looses energy it usually contracts.
  6. When matter changes state there is a significant exchange of latent heat and volume change.

Density of Matter

  1. Objects float or sink relative to their density and capacity.
  2. Density is equal to mass divided by volume. The ratio of mass to volume.
  3. Water has a density of 1 g/ml or 1 g/cc.
  4. Any density greater than 1 will sink in pure water.
  5. Any density less than 1 will float in pure water.
  6. Objects will sink or float depending on the relationship of the gravitational pull on the object and the upward force of the liquid it displaces.
  7. Density of an object in relationship to the density of the liquid that it is placed in will determine how it will sink or float.
  8. Buoyancy is the upward force of a liquid on an object placed in it.
  9. Gravity is the attraction of two objects.
  10. Force is a push or pull.
  11. Density is mass per volume
  12. Mass is the amount of matter in an object.
  13. Volume is the amount of space an object occupies.

Matter and Interactions of Matter

  1. Substances react chemically with other substances to form new substances (compounds) with different properties.
  2. In chemical reactions, the total mass is conserved.
  3. Substances often are placed in categories or groups if they react in similar ways; metals are an example of such a group.
  4. All matter is made from atoms that are alike and different and combine to compose all substances.
  5. Chemical elements do not break down during normal laboratory reactions involving such treatments as heating, exposure to electric current, or reaction with acids.
  6. There are more than 100 know elements that combine in a multitude of ways to produce compounds, which account for the living and nonliving substances.

Matter and Nuclear Reactions

  1. In most nuclear reactions, energy is transferred into or out of a system.
  2. Heat, light, mechanical motion, or electricity might all be involved in such transfers.

Educator notes

 

Chemical

Chemical

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

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

  1. Chemical change changes the atoms themselves.
  2. Sub atomic particles have the same properties as the elements or molecules
  3. Molecules have the same properties as the atoms from which they are composed
  4. Compounds are thought of as mixtures or solutions
  5. Numbers of particles come and go with out regard to accountability or proportionality of numbers
  6. Chemical change is like adding something rather than interactive
  7. Atoms are only in nonliving objects.
  8. Cells are made of something beside atoms.
  9. When we die the particles in our atoms stop moving.
  10. Rust comes from inside the iron object.

Acids and bases

  1. All acids are dangerous
  2. All acids dissolve or burn other objects.
  3. Acids are found in labs or have to be made.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

Chemical

  1. All things are made from different things.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

Chemical

  1. All things are made from chemicals.
  2. Chemical change changes the substances to different substances.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

Chemical

  1. Chemical change rearranges the atoms/molecules. Physical change doesn't. Careful saying physical changes are easily reversed. Smashing glass is not easily reversed.baking powder & soda image
  2. Sample chemical changes: baking soda and acid = carbon dioxide, baking powder + moisture = carbon dioxide, baking powder + cream of tarter = baking powder (physical change till add moister to the baking powder.
  3. In most chemical reactions, energy is transferred into or out of a system. Heat, light, mechanical motion, or electricity might all be involved in such transfers.
  4. Matter that has been created naturally on Earth includes 90 different kinds of elements. The smallest piece of any element that is still considered that element is called and atom. or Matter is composed of discrete particles (atoms).
  5. All of the millions of substances on Earth are composed of different combinations of these 90 basic particles ( atoms) that are created naturally on Earth.
  6. Over 100 different kinds of atoms exist; each kind has distinctive properties, that include mass and how it will combine with other atoms or molecules.
  7. Each atom takes up space, has mass, and is in constant motion. There is nothing but empty space (vacuum) between particles.
  8. All particles in substances are in constant motion.
  9. Particles in motion have kinetic energy.
  10. Heat is related to the kinetic energy of the particles with greater kinetic energy meaning greater heat energy.
  11. Energy transfers from one particle to another when they collide and is called conduction.
  12. When particles gain energy they move faster. The faster the particles travel the harder they collide. The harder the collision the farther the particles push each other apart. This is called expansion.
  13. Energy transfer causes phase change. Liquids gain energy until they melt and change to a liquid and later evaporate or boil and change to a gas. Gases lose energy until they condense to a liquid or freeze to a solid.
  14. A solution occurs when one substance breaks down into individual particles (dissolves) and becomes distributed uniformly among the particles of another substance.
  15. During a chemical reaction, starting substances transform into new substances when the atoms in particles of the starting substances rearrange to form new particles.
  16. Atoms can be joined (in different proportions) to form molecules that have different properties than the atoms from which they are made. The networks between the atoms and/ or molecules are known as chemical bonds between atoms.
  17. Organic means related to living or from derived from living matter. Organic compounds always have carbon (most inorganic compounds do not have carbon) and hydrogen or C-H bonds. Having carbon is not sufficient for a compound to be organic. Look for carbon and hydrogen. Examples: Sugar or sucrose (C12H22O11), benzene (C6H6), methane (CH4), ethanol or grain alcohol (C2H6O).

Educator notes

  1. N

 

Force

  • Force, motion, interactions, stability, and instability; gravity, weight, weightlessness

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

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

  1. Force continues to push after acting on the object. Like when it is gliding.
  2. An object a person is sitting or standing on doesn’t push back with equal force. The person is just resting on it. The reaction force doesn’t exist.
  3. A force is put on a projectile when it is launched and the force gradually decreases causing the object to slow and eventually stop when the force is used up. A thrown rock, hit ball, bullet.
  4. Friction is not a force.
  5. Friction slows objects or doesn’t allow them to move. Friction can use up the force.
  6. Friction is only present when something is rubbing against a moving object.
  7. If something is moving there must be a greater force on it.
  8. If you jump the force is greater than gravity. If an airplane is rising, then lift must be greater than gravity.
  9. The faster an object is moving the greater the force on it.
  10. Objects move in the direction of the strongest force.
  11. When a car brakes, the passengers experience a sudden forward force.
  12. Objects in motion can curve and make centrifugal force.
  13. It is possible to start and stop without accelerating or decelerating.

Gravity

  1. Weightlessness means no gravity.
  2. Heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones.
  3. Gravity is a very strong force.
  4. There is no gravity in space, on the moon, in a vacuum,
  5. Gravity is caused by Earth’s spin, air pressure, push from above.
  6. Gravity is weaker under water.
  7. Gravity is stronger the higher you are in a building or mountain that’s why it is easier to fall.
  8. Gravity will be stronger the longer and object falls.
  9. Shape affects gravity
  10. Gravity is weaker the higher you go. That’s why things fall faster the farther they fall.
  11. Astronauts are weightless because they are beyond Earth’s gravity.
  12. Gravity is the attraction of the larger body. The Earth and me are not attracted by other objects pulling up.
  13. Gravity causes objects to fall down through the center of the Earth and out the other side if there was a hole in through the Earth.
  14. Gravity pulls objects towards the south pole and if the Earth would not stop it they would go off into space away from the south pole.
  15. Gases are not affected by gravity.

Weightless

  1. Weightlessness is a result of being in space.
  2. Weightlessness only happens in a space vehicle.
  3. Weightlessness happens with the absence of air.
  4. Weightlessness happens when an object leaves Earth.
  5. Emptiness or nothingness creates weightlessness.
  6. Free fall near Earth does not have weightlessness.
  7. There is an additional force involved with free fall.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

Force

  1. An object can be moved with a push or pull.
  2. The distance of the motion is related to the size of the push or pull.
  3. Objects near the Earth fall unless held.
  4. Magnets can make some objects move.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

Force

  1. Force, mass, and movement are related.
  2. The greater the force, the greater the change of direction.
  3. Friction is a force that can slow an object.
  4. The Earth's gravity pulls objects toward the center of the Earth.
  5. Magnets push or pull other magnets and objects made from iron or cobalt.
  6. Electricity can push and pull other objects.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

Force

  1. An object that is not being subjected to a force will continue to move at a constant speed and in a straight line.
  2. If more than one force acts on an object along a straight line, then the forces will reinforce or cancel one another, depending on their direction and magnitude.
  3. Unbalanced forces will cause changes in the speed or direction of an object's motion.
  4. All objects have a gravitational force that interacts with another objects gravitational force proportional to the masses and distances.
  5. Electricity and magnetism can exert a force on each other.

Gravity

  1. Gravity is the force of attraction between masses.

gravity mass distance relationship image

Weight

  1. Weight is another name for gravitational force.
  2. Weight is the force exerted by an object against a support and is equal to the force exerted by the support on the object.
  3. Weightlessness is never absolute, there is always some, maybe very small weight.
  4. Gravitational force and weight being the same, decrease with increasing distance from the Earth?

Weightless

  1. Weightlessness is the result of no force being excerted on the body. It can be achieved by motion that exceeds gravity and puts the body in a certain free fall. It can also be achieved by being in a position that is far enough away from gravitational forces of massive bodies.

Relative position and motion - see Process skills - relative position and motion

Educator notes

See -

 

Energy

  • Energy & fuel
  • Motion, speed, mass, Newton's laws
  • Sound
  • Light, solar
  • Heat
  • Nuclear
  • Transfer, conservation
  • Electricity
  • Magnetism electro magnetism
  • Chemical

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

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

  1. Energy can be made, used, and lost.
  2. Energy is what makes us work.
  3. Energy just appears, striking a match, combustion, in animals.
  4. When things burn all of it turns into only a gas or smoke.
  5. Fuels turn into heat, or smoke, or gases,
  6. All substances become less when they burn (decrease in mass, disappear,
  7. Air is not needed for combustion.
  8. The black when something burns comes from the flame.
  9. Fire is not particles.
  10. Energy is a substance in gas… (fuels).
  11. Rest is a way to refuel the body. Energy within the body is increasing.
  12. Force = energy
  13. Gravity = energy
  14. Energy from gravity depends only on the height of the fall
  15. Energy is an object
  16. Energy is confined to its origin
  17. Energy is used up.
  18. Energy is not conserved.
  19. It takes energy to change things. Heat objects, move objects to a higher position, but the energy does not stay in the objects. They do not have more
  20. Energy is moving around
  21. Energy is only in living things (humans and animals)
  22. Excitement, enthusiasm, positive attitude, performance…
  23. Energy transfer mass does not affect the amount of energy transfer. Energy disappears.
  24. Potential energy in not energy. It becomes energy when it is transferred.
  25. Computers and televisions use more energy than heating
  26. Energy sources = the energy.
  27. Nuclear energy is a different kind of energy. Has something to do with mass. See matter
  28. Energy can't be measured

Sound

  1. Comes from people's mouths.
  2. Comes from wires sparking in electronic devices. Sound actually travels in wires of telephone…
  3. Is waves of different noises coming from different objects.
  4. When waves go through some objects and come out as music or conversation.
  5. Is vibrations in the air that the ear picks up and the brain interprets as sound.
  6. Sound waves cause sound to come out of an object.
  7. Sound moves between particles (empty space).
  8. Matter moves with waves
  9. In a flute… the flute vibrates (column of air)
  10. Sound travels faster in air because there is open space. Sound would be slower in water because the bubbles would get in the way. It’s hard to hear in solid and water because the stuff gets in the way. Sound can't travel in liquids or solids.
  11. Hitting and object harder or softer changes pitch.
  12. Pitch changes as the vibration increases or decreases, rubber band, tuning fork…
  13. The Doppler effect is caused by the horn changing pitch or engineer in train changing it.
  14. Sound travels in one direction like a flash light beam.

Heat

  1. When objects are heated the particles expand and contract when they cool.
  2. Thinks expand to make room for the heat.
  3. Heat is an object or something other than energy.
  4. Temperature depends on the material. Metal is colder than fabric. Coats are warm.
  5. Temperature depends on size.
  6. Heat travels like a liquid through conductors.
  7. If you mix 40 degree water with 40 degree water you get 80 or more than 40.
  8. Somethings are hotter than others are even though they have been in the same room, oven, water… for a long period of time.
  9. Metal is hotter or colder than other objects.
  10. Blankets, coats, warm objects. Because clothes keep you warm, anything closed in is warm, it acts as insulation and warms it up, it protects it from outside stuff, it’s like a house.
  11. Hot water freezes faster than cold
    • Hot water molecules evaporate when heated making less molecules that need to freeze.
    • Steam produced need not be frozen.
    • When cold water freezes the ice crystals act as a barrier not a helper.
    • Hot water molecules are farther apart giving room in which to freeze.
    • There is less oxygen and carbon dioxide making it easier to freeze.
    • When molecules are closer together they do not have as much of a chance of freezing where as in the hotter they are farther apart which gives them a better chance to freeze.
    • Hot water is more powerful and it will greatly change the substance that it is added to, no matter the volume of each.
    • Thermometer - see measurement in Cross cutting - Constancy, Change, & Measurement

Light transmission

  1. Reflected light is shine or glare not something associated with seeing objects.
  2. Light can only do some of the following: be absorbed, blocked, reflected, or refracted by an object.
  3. Light is not reflected in a predictable manner and angle.
  4. Light is not refracted in a predictable manner and angle.
  5. The reflection of an object is located on the surface of the mirror. The reflection is often thought of as a picture on a flat or curved surface.
  6. To be seen in a mirror, the object must be directly in front of the mirror or within the line-of-sight from the observer to the mirror.
  7. Light always passes straight through transparent material (without changing direction).
  8. When an object is viewed through a transparent material, the object is seen exactly where it is located.
  9. Light only reflects from mirrors and shiny objects.
  10. If students are asked what helps you see? Most will answer glasses, seeing-eye dogs, binoculars, hand lenses, or microscopes, not light.
  11. Bright light travels further than dim.
  12. Light travels further at night.
  13. Light only travels a short way.
  14. Light stops.

Color

  1. White light is pure and colorless light.
  2. Color is a property of something other than a property of light.
  3. Sunlight is red, yellow, or orange
  4. Light travels from our eyes so we can see.
  5. Light eminates from the object being looked at (not a property of what light is reflected or absorbed).
  6. A prism or colored filter (piece of gel or plastic) puts color into light when it passes through it.

Sight

  1. See also - Eyesight and Light: Examples of how difficult it is to change student's Misconceptions
  2. Humans can see in complete darkness after the eye adjusts. Students can persist with this belief by simply extending the time minutes, hours, days, years...
  3. Bats and owls can see in complete darkness.

Shadows

  1. Shadows come from me. From other people or objects.
  2. Shadows follow you.
  3. Shadows come from clouds or the sky
  4. Shadows come from the sun as it shines on us and reflects off us to make a shadow.

Rainbows

  1. Sunlight reflects from rain
  2. Water sprinkler makes rainbows
  3. Bubbles make rainbows
  4. Mist, moisture in air causes rainbows
  5. Pot of gold
  6. Water falls through light. The water has color in it and when it hits the light you see it.
  7. When light hits falling rain it makes all the colors in the raindrops to reflect off one another and the colors that are the same come together.

Magnetism

  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.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

Energy

  1. A push or pull requires energy. The sun warms the land, air, and water. People use fuels such as wood, oil, coal, natural gas, electricity or solar to heat and cook.
  2. People can save energy and money by turning off machines when they are not using them.
  3. People try to conserve energy to slow down the depletion of energy resources.

Sound

  1. Sound is made by motion.

Heat

  1. Sun provides heat.
  2. Heat is necessary for life.

Light

  1. Light needs energy.

Magnetism

  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.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

Energy

  1. Energy is a property of many substance and is associated with heat, light, electricity, magnetism, gravity, mechanical motion, sound, nuclei, and the nature of a chemical.
  2. All living organisms need energy. Energy is transferred in many ways from a source to a receiver.
  3. Objects that give off light usually give off heat.
  4. Mechanical energy is usually related to heat through friction.
  5. Hot and cold objects will transfer heat energy until they reach equilibrium. Some material conduct energy better than others.
  6. Some materials can transfer heat by contact or at a distance

Sound

  1. Sound is produced by vibrating objects.
  2. Vibrating matter can make sound and sound can make matter vibrate.
  3. Sound travels through a medium which transfers energy from particle to particle.
  4. Pitch can be varied by changing the rate of vibrations.
  5. Intensity (volume) of a sound is related to the amount of energy used to create the sound.
  6. Sound can be modeled as waves. Waves in regular patterns of motion, such as the surface of water when it is touched.
  7. Waves can make objects move.
  8. Sound waves of the same type can differ in amplitude and wavelength.

Heat

  1. Heat can be produced in many ways, such as burning, rubbing, or mixing one substance with another.
  2. Heat is transferred from a source to a reciever. Heat is transferred in predictable ways, flowing from warmer objects to cooler ones, until both reach the same temperature.
  3. Heat can be transferred during a chemical, electrical, magnetic, light, mechanical, or nuclear reaction.
  4. Objects that give off light usually give off heat.
  5. Mechanical energy is usually related to heat through friction.
  6. Hot and cold objects will transfer heat energy until they reach equilibrium.
  7. Some material conduct energy better than others. Some materials can transfer heat by contact or at a distance.

Light

  1. Light travels in a straight line until it strikes an object.
  2. Light can be reflected by a mirror, refracted by a lens, or absorbed by the object.
  3. Light interacts with matter by transmission (including refraction), absorption, or scattering (including reflection).
  4. To see an object, light is emitted by the object or reflected from its surface and enters the eye.
  5. Objects are seen only if they are illuminated by light interacting with them.

Magnetism

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

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

Energy

  1. Energy can be changed from one form to another but not created or destroyed.
  2. Most anything that goes on in the universe involves energy transfer (stars, biological, physical, weather, earth, machines). Heat is almost always a result of energy transfer.
  3. Heat can be transferred by collisions of atoms (conduction), or through space (radiation) or currents in a fluid (convection). Heat energy is the disorderly motion of molecules and in radiation.
  4. Chemical energy is the arrangement of atoms. Mechanical energy is the moving of bodies or in elastically distorted shapes. Electrical energy is the attraction or repulsion of charges.
  5. Different ways of using energy have different environmental consequences.
  6. Energy from the sun (wind, water, solar) is available indefinitely.
  7. Use of solar energy usually requires large collection systems. Different parts of the world have different amounts and kinds of energy resources available.

Sound

  1. The rate of vibration is related to the mass of the vibrating object.
  2. Sound can be modeled with a wave model to represent its properties such as: repeating pattern, having a specific wavelength, frequency, and amplitude.
  3. Waves can transmit energy and information.
  4. Wavelength and frequency are related. They are inversely proportional. Wavelength * frequency = wave speed. Frequence is also pitch. Wave speed depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing.

Heat

  1. Heat is almost always a result of energy transfer.
  2. Heat can be transfered by touching of particles (collisions of atoms conduction), or through space (by rays radiation) or currents in a fluid (convection).
  3. When objects are heated the space between the particles increases.
  4. Heat energy is the disorderly motion of molecules and in radiation.

Light

  1. Light interference is when two waves mix. When waves meet or interfere the result will range from two crests or troughs combining to form a higher crest or lower trough, hence more intense or brighter light, to a crest and a trough combining to cancel each other, hence a less bright or intense light ranging from less light to dark. This can be observed in a double slit experiment when light, with the same wavelength, passes through the slits, the waves interfer with each other which can be projected onto a screen where the interference pattern can be seen as bands of light and dark.
  2. Diffraction is the spreading out of waves after light passes through a narrow gap.
  3. Refraction is the bending of light when it travels through different transparent mediums.
  4. Light is reflected at an angle proportional to the angle it strikes an object.
  5. Light is refracted at an angle related to the angle that it enters or leaves a medium and the density of the mediums. Color is a property of light.
  6. White light has all colors. Black is the absence of light and/or color. Computer code #000 or #000000 has a value of zero, hence black. Code #fff or #ffffff has the highest value, hence white. Check out base 16 for explanation of f having a number value.
  7. White light can be refracted to view a spectrum. Light is a form of energy that can be transfered or changed to other forms of energy.
  8. An electromagnetic wave model and a photon model explain features of electromagnetic radiation each describe some common applications of electromagnetic radiation.

Magnetism

  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.

Educator notes

  • Scoring guide for heat energy (see activity: heat energy, temperature, & transfer)
    • Low level: Explains heat with I don't know, or as something with magic like qualities: like heat being a substance continuously generated within the object. Like a blanket, coat, glove, ... generates and gives off heat without consideration of limited supply or conservation of energy.
    • Middle level: Explains heat energy as something different than the object itself. Something that can be transfered from one thing to another.
    • High level: Explains heat is transferred in predictable ways from a source to a receiver. Flowing from warmer objects to cooler ones, until both reach the same temperature. Some materials conduct heat energy better than others, which can effect peoples perceptions of temperature.
  • Scoring guide for light reflection

 

Waves & Electromagnetic Radiation

Waves

Electromagnetic

Initial perceptual naive misconceptions (any age)

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

Waves

Electromagnetic radiation

Static

  1. Static electricity is the opposite of current electricity.
  2. Static electircal charge is really magnetism.

Current

  1. A thing you plug something into.
  2. Stuff in the wires.
  3. Electricity flows like water in a pipe to the receiver. Only needs one wire.
  4. Flows from negative to positive. Negative side of the battery to the bulb to the positive side of the battery through the stuff in the battery and back to the negative side.
  5. Electricity is not energy.
  6. Batteries make, create electricity. or chemicals in batteries make it.
  7. Generators make, create electricity
  8. Electrons flow at the speed of light.
  9. Electricity leaves one battery plate and returns to the other.
  10. There is positive and negative electricity that come from the battery and meet in the light bulb to make light.
  11. Nothing returns to the battery.
  12. The battery has the electrons, electricity there are none in the wires or receiver.
  13. Is not on the electromagnetic spectrum.
  14. Each electron carries energy
  15. Conductors allow charges to pass.
  16. Electricity is used up by the receiver. Doesn’t complete the circuit. Like water flowing from hose or pipe.
  17. Water, coal, oil, nuclear power causes electricity.
  18. Electricity vibrates in the wires until it is used.
  19. Electric companies supply electrons to your house.
  20. Insulation holds electricity in like the walls of a pipe for water. Causes the electricity to turn corners.
  21. If the switch is on electricity is flowing. Even if no receiver, bulb in socket, TV off…

Electro-magnetism

  1. Only magnets have magnetic fields.

Educator notes

 

Concepts Beginning (preschool - 7 years)

Waves

  1. Water waves move across the surface in a regular up and down pattern.

Electromagnetic radiation

Educator notes

 

Concepts Intermediate (7 years - 11 years)

Waves

  1. Waves, are regular patterns of motion.

Electromagnetic radiation

Static electricity

  1. Static electricity is created by friction.
  2. Objects with static charges can attract or repel. (++ or -- repel) (+- or -+ attract).

Current

  1. Electricity is a flow of energy through a source and through a receiver in a closed path.
  2. Electricity can be transferred from a source to a receiver. A closed circuit creates a transfer of electricity, an open circuit does not.
  3. A switch is used to open and close a circuit.
  4. A fuse or circuit breaker opens a closed circuit for protection when a circuit overheats.
  5. Light bulbs in a series circuit will go out if one is unscrewed.
  6. Light bulbs in a parallel circuit will remain lit when another is unscrewed.
  7. Electricity in circuits can produce light, heat, sound, and magnetic effects.
  8. Electrical energy can be produced from heat, light, magnetism, and chemical energy.
  9. Electricity flows easily through a conductor and flows with difficulty in a conductor.

 

Educator notes

 

Concepts Literate (11+)

Waves

  1. Water waves generally move up and down on the surface except when the depth of the water is shallow (on a beach).
  2. Waves of the same type can differ in height of the wave (amplitude) and spacing between crests (wavelength). )

Electromagnetic radiation

Static electricity

  1. Static electricity is an electrical charge produced by friction.
  2. All matter is made of particles (electrons, protons, neutrons)
  3. Electrons move from one atom to the next.
  4. Usually matter has the same number of protons (+)and electrons (-) that result in a neutral charged.
  5. Electrons are moved by rubbing.
  6. Electrons can be moved in either direction depending on the material of the objects being rubbed.
  7. More electrons than protons cause a negative charge, less electrons than protons cause a positive charge.
  8. Objects with different charges can attract or repel (++ or -- repel) (+- or -+ attract).

Current

  1. Electricity is the flow of electrons through a closed circuit that contains at least one source, receiver, and conducting path through which the electrons flow.
  2. Electrical energy is the attraction or repulsion of charges.
  3. Electricity and magnetism can exert a force on each other. Resistance reduces the flow of electricity.
  4. The flow of electricity is related to the charges and the resistance (Ohm's law).
  5. The flow of electricity in a series circuit is like ...
  6. The flow of electricity in a parallel circuit is like...

 

Educator notes

  1. N

 

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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