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)

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

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

    View Resource


  • Jones, A. T. () Investigation of Students' Understanding of Speed, Velocity and Acceleration. Research in Science Education, 13 (1), 95-104.

    From this study, it is clear that students can conflate velocity, speed and acceleration. With a sample of 30 students aged 11-16 in the US, the researchers found that confusion around one object passing another appeared regularly.

    Paper digest

  • diSessa, A. () Unlearning Aristotelian Physics: A Study of Knowledge-Based Learning. Cognitive Science, 6 (1) 37-75.

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