Science & Education 13 (4-5):309-320 (2004)

Zvi Biener
University of Cincinnati
Chris Smeenk
University of Western Ontario
Teaching Newtonian physics involves the replacement of students’ ideas about physical situations with precise concepts appropriate for mathematical applications. This paper focuses on the concepts of ‘matter’ and ‘mass’. We suggest that students, like some pre-Newtonian scientists we examine, use these terms in a way that conflicts with their Newtonian meaning. Specifically, ‘matter’ and ‘mass’ indicate to them the sorts of things that are tangible, bulky, and take up space. In Newtonian mechanics, however, the terms are defined by Newton’s Second Law: ‘mass’ is simply a measure of the acceleration generated by an impressed force. We examine the relationship between these conceptions as it was discussed by Newton and his editor, Roger Cotes, when analyzing a series of pendulum experiments. We suggest that these experiments, as well as more sophisticated computer simulations, can be used in the classroom to sufficiently differentiate the colloquial and precise meaning of these terms
Keywords Newton  matter  mass  education
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DOI 10.1023/B:SCED.0000041825.12956.35
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References found in this work BETA

What Was Einstein's Principle of Equivalence?John Norton - 1985 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 16 (3):203.
Unpublished Scientific Papers of Isaac Newton.Isaac Newton, A. Rupert Hall & Marie Boas Hall - 1963 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 13 (52):344-345.
Students' Operations with the Weight Concept.Igal Galili & Dov Kaplan - 1996 - Science Education 80 (4):457-487.

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