Some students draw liquid particle diagrams with a regular pattern

Properties of Matter


The patterns may be similar to patterns in solids but with more space between some of the particles.

Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to address this

  • Kinetic theory: two-dimensional model  (11-16)

    Shake the tray in a random motion, on the table. Then, to model a solid, tilt the tray so the marbles are at the bottom and the marbles are able to vibrate but not change places.

    View Resource


  • 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) 757-786.

    This research paper shows that students hold a wide range of misconceptions about matter and in particular they do not understand how particles behave during changes. The static representations of particles in textbooks do not help this situation. It is critical that students understand the particle model before they try to explain changes in state and chemical reactions.

    Paper digest

  • 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), 1743-1775.

    Teaching approaches continue to develop, and this paper compares two techniques to see if they can have an effect on reducing misconceptions about matter. The results show that both tested methods can successfully improve student understanding but the careful use of visual tools and appropriate simulations, selected after formative assessment, helps the most.

    Paper digest

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