June 03, 2013

Let's Play Spot the Error (Misconception)

A few months ago a bunch of Sports posters showed up in the hallways. Okay, great. Have the kids do some research into different sports as part of their PE curriculum. I think they might get more out of playing a sport, but hey what do I know? I think reading physics books is fun.

On closer inspection I saw that each of the sports was being related to Newton's Laws. As I read the posters it was clear students had simply found the law(s) on Wikipedia or some other site and then did their best to apply them. Sometimes the results were the "t-shirt versions" of the laws, i.e. short, simple and catchy, but incomplete. Such as:


But, mostly it was the application of the law that was wrong - no surprise there.

I don't share these to make fun of the students, they were doing their best, or to embarrass the teachers, they probably don't know any better. I shared these because the photos gave me an idea for a new game - "Spot the Error."

Lets hit misconceptions head-on. Not in the contrived language from a teacher, but in the language of peers (albeit younger peers). I would love to have a collection of student quotes on a full range of physics topics... I can see these as material for test questions, homework, or class discussions.

As a side note the quality of student work that is posted in public spaces is a big topic of discussion at our school.