Some students think that friction arises only when there is motion
Additionally, few students understand that the size of the friction force matches the externally applied force, up to a limit (for any given pair of surfaces).
Related to this conception is the idea that friction always hinders motion. When asked about the role of friction in a car, students often only explain its role in braking and struggle to unite friction with pushing the car forwards.
The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.
For more information, see the University of York EPSE website.
These questions look at when there is--and when there is not--a friction force on an object. Some pupils may think friction ‘switches off’ when the object moves. Others may think friction only depends on the choice of surfaces, and so is present all the time.EPSE Friction Q1
Resource that Address This
Source - SPT/ Fo02PN08
This resource gives an accessible explanation of friction.View Resource
How can you tell if there is friction? (5-11)
Source - SPT/ Mf03TL02
An activity to explore that friction exists between all surfaces, moving and tending to move - slip and grip.View Resource
Friction between solid surfaces (11-16)
Source - Practical physics/ Force and motion/ Friction, turning and other effects
Part 4 is particularly relevantView Resource
The following studies have documented this misconception:
- Clement, J. () Students' preconceptions in introductory mechanics. American Journal of Physics, 50 (1),
- Osborne, R. () "Building on Children's Intuitive Ideas" in R. Osborne & P. Freyberg (Eds.), Learning in Science. Heinemann, Auckland.