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Misconceptions In Science

Discussion in 'Science' started by Apple101, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. Apple101

    Apple101 Occasional commenter

    I want to create a thread where we can discuss common misconceptions in any area of science.

    I think its a good thing to be aware for any teacher where they/ their students are fallable in areas of science. I have fallen foul to some myself, mainly through repeating what teachers had told me or ones that you hear in popular media.

    Some I can think of to start us off

    The sun is on 'fire'
    The Universe is expanding into something
    Deoxygenated blood is blue (Damn those diagrams)
    Electricity happens instantaneously
    Trees get most of their mass from products in the ground
    We can visually see protons, neutrons and electrons
    That electrons 'orbit' the nucleus of an atom.
    Scientific theory's are just guesses (Adults are particularly awful at this one, I get irritated)
    Sugar Makes Kids Hyperactive
    Being cold makes you sick (I think the jury is still out on this one so maybe needs to be omitted)
    Stain glass windows are thicker at the bottom because of the glasses viscosity (It was just easier to fit them with the thicker part at the bottom)
    When an object is moving at constant speed it needs a force on it to do so. Most kids will explain that it is being pushed.
    That there is such thing as a photographic memory.

    Not really a misconception as such but most students fail to understand quite how big the universe is or how small cells and even atoms are they have no idea.
  2. Ceecees

    Ceecees New commenter

    In terms of Chemistry misconceptions, the RSC has a great resource online that covers the main ones called 'Chemical Misconceptions'. I find a lot of misconceptions when teaching Earth Science. For example:

    -We can drill into the centre of the Earth
    -All rocks are heavy
    -Dinosaurs and humans existed at the same time.
    install likes this.
  3. Alldone

    Alldone Senior commenter

  4. senlady

    senlady Senior commenter

    Hot air rises
    Fat makes you fat
  5. msuxg

    msuxg New commenter

    Thanks. The Royal Society of Chemistry's resources are based on two books by Keith Taber. Volume 1 explains the misconceptions students acquire and how to prevent them. Volume 2 offers strategies and classroom resources for dealing with the misconceptions. Extracts of the books are available on Learn Chemistry: Chemical Misconceptions: Prevention, diagnosis and cure.
    ian_william_hall1 likes this.
  6. Hannahchemis

    Hannahchemis New commenter

    Then I think Misconceptions in Primary Science could be used as a reference. This essential book offers friendly support and practical advice for dealing with the common misconceptions encountered in the primary science classroom. Most pupils will arrive at the science lesson with previously formed ideas, based on prior reasoning or experience, including synthetic chemistry. This handy book offers advice for teachers on how to recognise and correct such misconceptions.
    install likes this.
  7. DavidAWood

    DavidAWood New commenter

  8. cellerdore

    cellerdore Occasional commenter

    There are only three states of matter
    Scientists only discover things by doing fair tests
    Respiration is breathing
    electricity and magnetism are not related
    The sun rises

    I really hate the orbital model of the atom. I think it is a major fallacy as when they begin to learn about wave particle duality the particle model is so ingrained that it is never fully overturned so all observations then suffer from a sort of pre confirmation bias. I tell them that the model is rubbish and that the electrons are like the arms of a fan, moving so fast that hey are in all places at once. Even my year 6s can get that :)
  9. lvex

    lvex New commenter

    "The sun is on plasma", would be a more accurate statement. I have to say I have never come across this one. The concept of Nuclear Fusion is rather abstract for KS2 o KS3 kids.Do not despair, just add a few more words to the description: the sun porduces a very very hot substance, hotter than fire, this will be more accurate and might induce curiosity in some students.
  10. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    Doesn't hot air rise? How else do hot air balloon work?
  11. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    When you heat something up the particles move more and can cover a larger amount of space, this makes them less dense so they will rise due to that. But they still need the increased thermal energy to effect the density change.
  12. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    Are kids still taught that bats are blind and that a goldfish has little or no memory,
  13. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    90% of pheromones come out of your head and that's why women are shorter according to Phoebe from Friends. Is this true?
    BCCHEM likes this.
  14. minka1

    minka1 Occasional commenter

    I love the programme QI and I have learnt a lot from it but sometimes I feel it perpetuates it's own myths. Eg claiming Cruithne is Earth's second moon. But it does not orbit the Earth and is not a moon.
    JP777 likes this.
  15. MartinAbraham

    MartinAbraham New commenter

    Often pupils seem to envision sperm cells as a living entity in its own right.
    They never appreciate that they are cells.
  16. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Blood is blue.

    You see by light leaving your eyes and hitting the object you are looking at.
  17. Teaching_Tricks

    Teaching_Tricks Occasional commenter

    Sea levels are only rising because ice-caps are melting
    Plants "eat" soil
    Something is dead if it has x for eyes
  18. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    When I challenge the blood is blue idea many of the kids tell me that they were told this by their primary school teachers!
  19. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    In the workplace dilemmas forum there is a comment by someone who was failed in a lesson observation because the observer challenged his assertion that all objects posess gravity. The observer maintained that only planets and stars have gravity!
  20. stargirl577

    stargirl577 New commenter

    Harvard did research on student misconceptions in science based on the US science standards. They have their findings and tests available on the MOSART site. You do have to register for access. I registered when I was teaching in GA, and I can't remember if you need to be a US teacher or not. Might be useful to check into.


    Some misconceptions I've seen:

    • We have seasons because of the Earth's distance from the sun
    • The far side of the moon is always dark
    • The rock cycle moves in a certain order/direction
    That's all that comes to mind right now, but I know there are loads more I've come across. I'll share when I remember!
    englishdragon and Apple101 like this.

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