Many students think that atoms do not move in a solid

Properties of Matter


Students may think that matter is continuous and static or that particles do not move in the solid state. This could be because diagrams representing particles in a solid as tightly packed are understood to imply that there is no scope for any particle movement (such as vibration).

Resources to address this

  • A model of vibrating atoms in a solid  (11-16)

    Ref - Practical Physics; Molecules in motion; From crystals to atoms;  A model of vibrating atoms in a solid

    The model recommended is large and wobbly. The more rigid types often used in chemistry departments are not suitable.

    The model is used as a prop to support a discussion of the way in which the particles in a solid are held together by spring-like forces -  demonstrate how vibrating it will shake the individual atoms, but that they can retain their place in the overall pattern.

    View Resource


  • Boz, Y., () Turkish Pupils' Conceptions of the Particulate Nature of Matter, Journal of Science Education, 15 (2)


    Review sheet

  • Özmen, H., Kenan, O., () Determination of the Turkish Primary Students' Views about the Particulate Nature of Matter, Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, 8 (1).

    Review sheet

  • Tsai, C., () Overcoming Junior High School Students' Misconceptions about Microscopic Views of Phase Change: A Study of an Analogy Activity, Journal of Science Education and Technology, 8 (1)


    Review sheet

  • Andersson, B., () Pupils' Conceptions of Matter and its Transformations (age 12-16), Studies in Science Education, 18,


    Review sheet

  • Adadan, E., Irving, K. E. and Trundle, K. C., () Impacts of Multi-representational Instruction on High School Students' Conceptual Understandings of the Particulate Nature of Matter, International Journal of Science Education, 31 (13),


    Review sheet

  • Adbo, K. and Taber, K. S., () Learners' Mental Models of the Particle Nature of Matter: A study of 16-year-old Swedish science students, International Journal of Science Education, 31 (6)


    Review sheet

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