What ideas do students have about mechanical energy?

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Episode 106: Potholes University of Maryland

Research suggests that students have many productive ideas about mechanical energy, and with appropriate support can build a sophisticated model. Some common ideas that come naturally to many students include that energy transfers from one object to another and transforms from one form to another. What other ideas do students have about mechanical energy?

July 2, 2018

Pedagogy Content
Attending to student ideas
Physics Content

Lesson Contents (3 MB)Student Handout
Transcript, discussion questions, and problem

(1 MB)Specific Lesson Guide
Facilitator's guide for this lesson

(1 MB)General Facilitator's Guide
Background and best practices

(95 MB)Video
Captioned video


Sample Discussion Prompts

  1. What struck you about this episode? Talk to the person next to you about what got your attention.

  2. Carrie, in trying to come up with where the jogger’s energy went, says, “Did he perspire it?” A few lines later she cracks up at the idea that the jogger’s energy might have dripped onto the road (suggested by her gesture). How does she seem to be thinking of energy (perhaps partly in jest)?

  3. Deb decides that the jogger’s energy must go to the road. Why does she think so?

  4. Why do the students think that giving energy to the road would result in potholes? Do you think so?

  5. Where do you think the jogger’s energy goes?

  6. What student ideas about mechanical energy are suggested by this episode?

Collections featuring this lesson

Colorado LA Pedagogy Course21 LESSONS Best of Periscope11 LESSONS Student ideas14 LESSONS