Reflection: Lesson Planning Newton's 2nd Law Demonstration - Section 3: Student Demonstration

I believe that Newton's 2nd Law is the most difficult to teach because most people think of the relationship between force (F), mass (m), and acceleration (a) as it relates to objects moving down an inclined place, such as a ramp. Most kids have experience rolling toy cars down a hill or a ramp and they quickly learned that the heaviest car moved the fastest, apparently contradicting the principles of Newton's 2nd Law.

The version of Newton's 2nd law that I teach is:

2) Acceleration is based upon force and mass (F=ma).

In other words, how fast an object moves is based upon how much it weighs and how hard it is being pushed. Kids can understand that the harder you push a toy car the faster it will move. On an inclined plane however, the heavier object will typically move faster.

The best way to explain or demonstrate Newton's 2nd Law is to use a level surface. I often ask the kids if two vehicles (motorcycle and a truck) had the exact same engine type, which vehicle would win in a drag race. Most kids could explain that the motorcycle would win because it is lighter.

It is imperative that kids understand that Newton's 2nd Law is about the relationship between force (F), mass (m), and acceleration (a) that so important to understand, i.e. as a student walks around their daily class schedule they would walk considerably slower if they had to carry extra textbooks around. I like to frame the examples in concepts that have already experienced.

Avoid misconceptions
Lesson Planning: Avoid misconceptions

Newton's 2nd Law Demonstration

Unit 6: Forces
Lesson 11 of 12

Big Idea: Newton's 2nd Law is not always intuitive to students. Providing a real world example helps them to understand the physical environment they live in.

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185 minutes

Sean Gillette

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