Forces and Motion | Electricity and Magnetism

What can magnets do?

Teaching Guidance for 5-11 11-14 Supporting Physics Teaching


Wrong Track: Magnets attract metals

Right Lines: Magnets can attract or repel other magnets. Some metals and some non-metals can become magnetised.

Explaining how magnets work

Thinking about the learning

Pupils' everyday experiences of magnets are likely to focus on situations where the force of attraction is important: For example, in magnetic catches on cupboard doors. However, not all objects and not all metals are attracted to magnets.

Thinking about the teaching

The process of attraction can be explained in three simple stages:

  1. An object needs to be within the field of influence of the magnet for the effect to be noticed.
  2. The magnetic field influences the internal structure of the object. Atoms realign themselves. The object becomes a weak magnet by a process called induction. We now have two magnets.
  3. There is a force of attraction between the two magnets.

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