Electricity and Magnetism

Magnets wearing out

Teaching Guidance for 5-11 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching

Losing magnetism

Wrong Track: The magnet sends out electricity to make it attract and repel. That's why it loses its strength.

Right Lines: Magnets wear out as their internal mini-magnets become disordered, pointing in all directions.

Thinking about magnets wearing out

Thinking about the learning

In real life, permanent magnets do wear out and lose their magnetism. Pupils sometimes associate this with the magnet giving something out to make it attract and repel.

Thinking about the teaching

This idea of the magnet sending out electricity is incorrect, but the question as to why magnets wear out is a good one. It's best thought of in terms of the mini-magnet model introduced in the Physics Narrative.

2021 IOP Awards

Teachers of Physics Award

Recognising and celebrating outstanding contributions to the field of physics education.

Learn more