Spinning Top Misconceptions

The study of alternative or common misconceptions is an active educational research field (Confrey 1990).  I have been paying more attention to it in my second grade robotics unit this year which focuses on gears and pulleys.  One the of gear projects is a spinning top (and a handle that spins the top) made out of LEGOs.  I found some interesting student conceptions this year for tops.

  • The tops stays up by moving the air underneath the top, like a helicopter.
  • The top stays up from gravity.
  • The gears on the top (which change in size) cause the top to stay up longer (or shorter).  [Actually, it is due to the gear rations involved.]
  • Tops are a kind of BeyBlade.
Confrey, J. (1990). A Review of the Research on Student Conceptions in Mathematics, Science, and Programming. Review of Research in Education, 16, 3–56.
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