Few students still have the idea that the Earth is flat and round

Earth and Space


Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to address this

  • The shape of the Earth (5-11)

    Ref - SPT HS03 TL02

    Children generally like to believe adults and so it is not uncommon for them to amalgamate their flat Earth model with adults' spherical Earth model. Here are some ways in which they retain a flat Earth model and still build in roundness.


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  • Greek evidence for the Earth's shape and spin  (11-15)

    Ref - Practical Physics / Astronomy / Greek astronomy /Thales model of the Universe

    Pythagoras' pupils, if not the great man himself, knew that the Earth is round. Traveller's tales of ships disappearing over the horizon and noticing bright stars, such as Polaris, shifting to a higher position in the sky as one journeyed north suggested a curved Earth.

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The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Trumper, R., () A cross-age study of junior high school students' conceptions of basic astronomy concepts. International Journal of Science Education, 23 (11)


    Review sheet

  • Nussbaum, J., () Children’s Conceptions of the Earth as a Cosmic Body: A Cross Age Study. Science Education, 63,



    Review sheet

  • Nussbaum, J and Novak, J. D. () An Assessment of Children's Concepts of the Earth Utilizing Structured Interviews. Science Education, 60, (4)



    Review sheet

  • Phillips, W., () Earth science misconceptions. The Science Teacher,


    Review sheet

  • Sneider, C. and Pulos, S., () Children’s Cosmographies: Understanding the Earth’s Shape and Gravity. Science Education, 67 (2)


    Review sheet

  • Blown, E. J. and Bryce, T. G. K., () Thought-Experiments About Gravity in the History of Science and in Research into Children’s Thinking. Science and Education, 22


    Review sheet

  • Bryce, T. G. K. and Blown, E. J., () Children's Concepts of the Shape and Size of the Earth, Sun and Moon. International Journal of Science Education, 35 (3)



    Review sheet

  • Baxter, J., () Children's understanding of familiar astronomical events. International Journal of Science Education, 11 (5)


    Review sheet

  • Osborne, J., Wadsworth, P., Black, P. and Meadows, J., () The earth in space: Primary space project research report. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

    Review sheet

  • Vosniadou, S. and Brewer, W., () Mental Models of the Earth: A Study of Conceptual Change in Childhood. Cognitive Psychology.

    Review sheet

  • Straatemeier, M., Han, L. J., Maas, D. V., Jansen, J.R.B., () "Children’s knowledge of the earth: A new methodological and statistical approach. J. Exp. Child Psychol, 100


    Review sheet

  • Sharp, G. J., () Children's astronomical beliefs: a preliminary study of Year 6 children in south‐west England. International Journal of Science Education, 18 (6)


    Review sheet

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