Some younger pupils may associate magnetism with gravity (seeing one as the cause of the other), and/or think that both require the presence of air.

Electricity and Magnetism


Students may believe that the reason we 'stick' to the surface of the Earth is due to some sort of magnetic attraction. 

Resources to Address This

  • Magnetism and Gravity (11-14)

    Source - SPT / Em01 TL03

    This resource discusses a helpful example that teachers can use to convince students that the forces of gravity and magnetism are different to one another. 

    View Resource
  • Magnetism and Air (11-14)

    Source - SPT / Em01 TL04

    This resource discusses some useful ways for teachers to think about the teaching and learning issues surrounding this misconception, and suggests a demonstration for challenging the belief that magnetic effects require the presence of air.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Borges, A. T. and Gilbert, J. K. () Models of magnetism. International Journal of Science Education, 20 (3),


  • Bradamante, F. and Viennot, L. () Mapping Gravitational and Magnetic Fields with Children 9–11: Relevance, difficulties and prospects. International Journal of Science Education, 29 (3),


  • Hickey, R. and Schibeci, R. A. () The attraction of magnetism. Physics Education, 34 (6),



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