Many students have difficulty using arrows to indicate the direction and point of action of a force

Forces and Motion


In particular, some students may think that it does not matter whether the tip or end of an arrow is placed at the point of action.

Resources to Address This

  • Cardboard arrows (5-11 and 11-14)

    Source - The same activity is found at SPT Fo01TA03 and Mf03TA04.

    This resource will help children to identify forces and give them a language to describe forces.


    View Resource
  • Looking through forces spectacles 

    Source - SPT/ Fm01TA04

    This resource outlines a classroom activity where students make simplified drawings of force arrows.

    View Resource
  • Keeping it simple: modelling (5-11 and 11-14)

    Source - SPT / Fo01PN03 and Mf01PN06

    Shows the steps to take when moving from a picture of an object to a force diagram, with the arrows correctly positioned.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Trumper, R. and Gorsky, P. () A cross-college age study about physics students' conceptions of force in pre-service training for high school teachers. Physics Education, 31 (4),


    Review sheet

  • Terry, C.; Jones, G. and Hurford, W. () Children's Conceptual Understanding of Forces and Equilibrium. Physics Education, 20,


    Review sheet

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


    Review sheet

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