Many students are unable to apply Newton’s Second Law to examples of motion in 2D

Forces and Motion


Students may particularly struggle to apply Newton's Second Law to instances of projectile motion and circular motion, or to one-dimensional motion where the speed of an object is decreasing.

Resource to Address This

  • Investigating Newton's second law of motion (11-16)

    Source - Practical physics/ Force and motion/ Force, mass and acceleration - Newton's second law

    This resource explores how a trolley experiences an acceleration when an external force is applied to it.

    Also - Relationships between force, acceleration and mass.  This is another activity in the same group.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Jones, A. T. () Investigation of Students' Understanding of Speed, Velocity and Acceleration. Research in Science Education, 13 (1),



    This study aimed to identify the conceptions of speed, velocity and acceleration held by a sample of 30 students aged 11-16 in the United States.
    Review sheet

  • diSessa, A. () Unlearning Aristotelian Physics: A Study of Knowledge-Based Learning. Cognitive Science, 6 (1)


    Review sheet

Limit Less Campaign

Support our manifesto for change

The IOP wants to support young people to fulfil their potential by doing physics. Please sign the manifesto today so that we can show our politicians there is widespread support for improving equity and inclusion across the education sector.

Sign today