'Feather vs. Stone' And Other Fallacies

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Here are some examples of common misconceptions harbored by students:

  • In physics, students often believe that heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones—despite teachers' efforts to convince them that objects fall at the same rate.
  • Children learning to dribble a basketball often believe they have to push the ball in front of them in order to advance down the court. Coaches must show them that the ball will move with them if they bounce it straight up and down instead.
  • In biology, a typical misunderstanding of Darwinian evolution theory is the belief that a dog whose tail was cut off will give birth to puppies with no tails.
  • Children told the earth is round often envision a pancake. Told to think instead of a ball, they sometimes picture a sphere with a flat, pancake-like top.
  • Younger students often believe that plants eat dirt or that soil loses weight as plants grow in it.
  • Students of history are often guilty of "presentism"—the belief that people in ages past were not as smart as people are today.
  • A tenet of physics is that objects move in a straight line when no other force is acting upon them. But even students of that subject, when looking at a ball rolling through a curvilinear tube, often predict that the ball will continue to roll in a curvilinear fashion once it has left the tube.

Vol. 19, Issue 13, Page 27

Published in Print: November 24, 1999, as 'Feather vs. Stone' And Other Fallacies
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