Earth

Misconceptions related to Earth
  1. Fourth grade students: 50% of students had an egocentric view of the world with no feeling for cosmic space. They claim that there is a flat bottom to the cosmos and the sky is something flat and parallel to the ground (notion 1). (Nussbaum, 1979) [Grade 4]
  2. 33% of fourth grade students had some mental constructs with some feeling for cosmic space and some elements of an egocentric view. They saw the earth as a huge ball composed of two hemispheres. The lower part is solid and made up of soil and rocks. The upper half is not solid, made of air and sky. The sun, the moon, and the stars exist inside the ball, upon the ball surface, or outside the ball. Outside the ball there is empty space. People live inside the earth, but cannot live on it (Notion 2 & 3). (Nussbaum, 1979) [Grade 4]
  3. By fifth grade, only 6% used notion 1 to explain the structure of the earth. 38% gave notion 2 or 3. However, 56% now held mental constructs with some feeling for cosmic space but little or no elements of an egocentric view. Students believe it is possible to live everywhere on the earth. They may believe that inside the Earth, down simply points to the bottom of the figure with no relationship to the Earth's center or see down directions compatible with scientific conceptions (Notion 4 & 5.) (Nussbaum, 1979) [Grade 5]
  4. In sixth grade, there was a slight reversal in trend. Eighteen percent of students gave notion 1, 42% gave notion 2 or 3, and 40 % gave notion 4 or 5 as their explanation for the earth. (Nussbaum, 1979) [Grade 6]
  5. In seventh and eighth grade students, there were very few students providing completely egocentric views of the earth (0% and 2% providing notion 1). The majority of students had developed a correct view of the earth (77% and 67% providing notion 4 & 5). (Nussbaum, 1979) [Grade 7]
  6. Half the teachers did not understand how earthquake depth evidence can be used to support plate tectonic theory. (Nussbaum, 1979) [Adult]
  7. Most teachers had incorrect ideas about the state of the different Earth spheres. (Nussbaum, 1979) [Adult]
  8. Nearly a third of teachers did not apply physical principles to an understanding of the density of the Earth. (Nussbaum, 1979) [Adult]
  9. Most children through age 10 (fourth grade) hold on to the idea that the Earth is flat and continues infinitely sideways and downwards. (Sneider & Pulos, 1983) [Grade 4]
  10. The widest spread of notions was found in children ages 11 and 12 (fifth and sixth grades). Through the fifth grade very few children realize that the spherical earth concept implies that people must live down beneath their feet, on the other side of the world. (Sneider & Pulos, 1983) [Grade 5~Grade 6]
  11. Most children aged 13-14 (seventh and eighth grades) have one of two ideas about the Earth. The first idea is that the Earth is round and that it is possible to live everywhere on the Earth. "Down" directions are always toward the ground. However, inside the Earth, down always points to the bottom of the globe and have no relationship to the Earth's center. The second idea is that down directions are related to the Earth's center. Earth, space, and down directions are conceived to be compatible with the scientific conception. (Sneider & Pulos, 1983) [Grade 7~Grade 8]
  12. Half the teachers surveyed did not know that the outer core is liquid and a third did not know that the inner core is a solid. (King, 2000) [Adult]
  13. Eighty percent of teachers surveyed think the Earth's mantle is either liquid, a partial liquid, or a partial solid. (King, 2000) [Adult]
  14. Seismic evidence shows that 90-99% of the upper mantle is solid, with a narrow zone that contains a small amount of molten material. However, only half of teachers surveyed correctly stated that the upper mantle is partial liquid. More than a third of the teacher thought it is completely solid. (King, 2000) [Adult]
  15. Nearly half the teachers had no real concept of the scale of the crust relative to the whole Earth. (King, 2000) [Adult]
  16. A third of the teachers had little idea of how "S" wave velocity changed with depth and the evidence provided by this for the structure and state of the Earth. (King, 2000) [Adult]
  17. Three quarters of the teachers did not appreciate how the supercontinent Pangaea needed to be reconstructed from the first principle of where the continents are found relative to each other. (King, 2000) [Adult]
  18. Half the teachers did not understand how earthquake depth evidence can be used to support plate tectonic theory. (King, 2000) [Adult]
  19. Most teachers had incorrect ideas about the state of the different Earth spheres. (King, 2000) [Adult]
  20. Nearly a third of teachers did not apply physical principles to an understanding of the density of the Earth. (King, 2000) [Adult]

References
  • King, C. (2000). The Earth's mantle is solid: Teachers' misconceptions about the Earth and plate tectonics. School Science Review, 82, 57-64. (Details...)
  • Nussbaum, J. (1979) Children's conceptions of the Earth as a cosmic body: a cross-age study. Science Education, 63, 83-93. (Details...)
  • Sneider, C. & Pulos, S. (1983), Children's cosmographics: understanding the Earth's shape and gravity. Science Education. 67(2): 205-222. (Details...)