Some students do not associate the phenomenon of weight with the force of gravity

Forces and Motion


Resource to Address This

  • Gravity related to mass and 'weight' (5-11 & 11-14)

    This resource gives some classroom discussion points on the relationship between mass, weight and gravitational force.

    View Resource
  • Differentiating between mass and the force of gravity (11-14)

    The distinction between mass and weight can often seem pernickety, unnecessary and not particularly helpful. However, in physics, the mass of an object and the force acting on an object are very different measures.

    View Resource
  • The Earth's gravitational pull (11-16)

    Gravitational force can act 'at a distance'; it shows little variation over short distances, but does vary over larger distances.

    View Resource


  • 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), 227-236.

    Paper digest

  • Minstrell, J. () Explaining the "At Rest" Condition of an Object. The Physics Teacher, 20 (1), 10-14.

    This study investigated students' (14-18) explanations for stationary objects in an affluent Seattle suburb. Students drew diagrams of the forces involved in various scenarios, such as books at rest on a table, multiple books held by hand, a book hanging from a spring and a book on a table that is either stationary or depressing. The study recorded student discussions, homework and pre- and post-instruction tests.

  • Graham, T. and Berry, J. () Students' intuitive understanding of gravity. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 24 (3), 473-478.

    This study administered a questionnaire to a sample of 202 students in the UK between the ages of 16 and 18 from a range of city and rural comprehensive schools, private schools and sixth-form colleges.

  • Smith, C. Carey, S. and Wiser, M. () On differentiation: A case study of the development of the concepts of size, weight and density. Cognition, 21 (3), 177-237.

    In this US study, a sample of 78 children aged between 3 and 9 years old participated in six tasks designed to probe their understanding of weight, size and density. A combination of verbal and non-verbal tasks were used and interviews were conducted.

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