Skip to main content

Investigation about representations used in teaching to prevent misconceptions regarding inverse proportionality



A major problem in teaching science is the overcoming of misconceptions. Reif found a procedure specifying a science concept. Neglect of this procedure can induce misconceptions. To find what can prevent misconceptions, students entering engineering were tested to see whether they understood easy problems of movement requiring the concept of inverse proportionality. The test comprised questions about time needed by a vehicle in both linear and diagrammatic form using different representations given to the students.


Science misconceptions were investigated by comparison of the answers given to the same problem using different representations of the problem. The misconceptions demonstrated by the answers confirmed models of misconceptions such as Piaget's and Reif's. Reif found a procedural concept providing a more detailed specification of a concept, which helps to avoid imprecision, which can easily creep into verbal definition statements. This was confirmed in this study. Students' conceptual knowledge was found to be highly incorrect because of confusion with preexisting knowledge acquired in daily life resulting in scientific misconceptions. It was confirmed that imprecision easily creeps into verbal definition statements, which would be avoided by explicit specification of a concept eventually recalled by a drawing.


Regarding the results of this study, drawings seem to protect best from misconceptions and this does not depend on other material given to the students. In teaching science, more emphasis should be on procedures specifying concepts as outlined by Reif.


What is reported in the article

In science education, a main problem is overcoming false preconceptions and naive beliefs. The educational and cognitive sciences have given intensive consideration to naive beliefs as well as misconceptions in physics (Bao et al. 2002; Kautz et al. 2002, 2004, 2005a,[b]) such as the common misconception speed proportional force rather than acceleration proportional force (Bao et al. 2002; Halloun and Hestenes 1987; McCloskey 1983; Rebello and Zollman 2004).

Misconceptions about everyday life phenomena are common. These misconceptions evolve even with simple problems by neglecting critical thought. For example, most people say wind hits one’s face more during biking than it does the back. Of course, when wind comes from one direction, it comes from the other way when you ride back; thus, the chances for both sides are equal. But, because it takes longer to ride against the wind, people feel that the wind blows in their faces more often.

The educational research about misconceptions has been on the way for quite a time. Misconceptions in the minds of students about movement like this were studied in depth by McCloskey (1983), Halloun and Hestenes (1987) and Rebello and Zollman (2004). Misconceptions in application of mathematics to physics have been studied by Reif (1987) and Resnick (1985).

Psychological viewpoints of students' difficulties in the sciences have been considered, such as concepts (Posner et al. 1982; Reif 1987; Kruger et al. 1990; Licht and Thijs 1990), schemata (Chi et al. 1981; Mestre 1991), representations (Reif 1995; Lorenzo 2005), procedural knowledge (van Heuvelen 1991a,[b]), cognitive anchors (Laws 1997; Hammer 2000), concept change (Abbott et al. 2000; Bao et al. 2002) and scripts (Larkin et al. 1980; Caramazza et al. 1981).

For example, misconceptions of movement can be cued by perceptual attention focussed selectively on one direction of motion alone (Reif 1987). According to Reif, misconceptions can arise from concept interpretation relying on associated knowledge fragments having the advantage of being fast and effortless.

Surveys about overcoming student's misconceptions by using new teaching methods have been undertaken, such as the Introductory University Physics Project (IUPP; Rigden et al. 1993; diStefano 1996a,[b]; Coleman et al. 1998 and Hestenes 1998), the Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) study (van Heuvelen 1991a,[b]; Adey 1992), the Overview, Case Study (OCS: Physics; Gautreau and Novemsky 1997) and student feedback by clicker questions (Reay et al. 2005, 2008; Ding et al. 2009; James and Willoughby 2012).

The cognitive background for emergence and overcoming of misconceptions were investigated before by Piaget in the first half of the twentieth century in his famous experiments asking children about movement of toy trains overtaking each other and disappearing in a tunnel for a while (Piaget 1998, 2000; Palmer 2007). Children form a kind of ‘Gestalt’ about the world they live in, these ideas were used to explain novel experiences, and Piaget called this process ‘assimilation’. New experiences, which cannot be explained in this way, are in ‘reconciliation’, which can, however, be misleading into a misconception. The concept change, which is necessary to overcome misconceptions, is difficult for students because it requires a change from the ontological categories matter or things to processes and mental states (Chi et al. 1994). Central concepts are likely to be rejected when they have generated a class of problems which they appear to lack the capability to solve (Posner et al. 1982), such as Newton's first law (force proportional change of velocity). This law is perceived by students realising the presence of frictional forces. They feel a contradiction to everyday life experiences with overwhelming influence of frictional forces (force seems to be proportional to velocity).

Representations of problems in students may be in the form of propositions or images (Posner et al. 1982), which can prevent application of central concepts, such as here in a question about the time needed in a vehicle with the influence of wind.

In the development of knowledge, intellectual norms have to be used according to Piaget's epistemology (Palmer 2007; Piaget 2000), such as autonomy, entailment, inter-subjectivity, objectivity and universality.

  •  Autonomy - use of own reasoning.

  •  Entailment (necessary knowledge) - a necessary relation about what has to be.

  •  Inter-subjectivity - being in line with generally accepted axioms, which are a paradigm case of common ground between different thinkers.

  •  Objectivity - being justified as a true response in a valid argument.

  •  Universality - whether or not open to transfer under different causal conditions.

Though autonomy is a condition for reasoning, it can evoke wrong representations following naive conclusions drawn from observations, which lead to misconceptions. According to Piaget, children have a tendency to adapt new observations to old naïve beliefs and misconceptions (called assimilation by Piaget) rather than having a conceptual change to new concepts explaining the phenomenon better (called accommodation by Piaget). This behaviour is explained by the tendency of students to reconcile new observations with old misconceptions (réconciliation; Posner et al. 1982; diSessa 1993).

These Piagetian perspectives on reasoning and cognitive development guide the way to find out which representation presented to the students will avoid emergence of misconceptions. Which representation presented to the students can help to overcome misconceptions is investigated here.

Piaget is undeniably one of the greatest psychologists of the twentieth century; however, recent developments have not always confirmed his findings adding new ideas and concepts such as ecological approach to perceptual learning and development and research on embodied cognition considering for example the perception of movement of objects (Gibson and Gibson 1994; Shapiro 2010).

Misconceptions can be analysed by a model of four cognitive steps, which are based on Posner et al. (1982). This model is an application of Piaget's ideas about assimilation and reconciliation when encountering new phenomena (Posner et al. 1982; Chi et al. 1994):

  1. 1.

    Rejection: Rejection of observational theory. (Example: the individual observes a vehicle. The time needed is not directly observable and therefore it is rejected).

  2. 2.

    Avoid concern: lack of concern with experimental findings. (Example: careful observation would yield to correct information; the velocity decreases; and thus, the time increases while the vehicle faces the wind. This needs reasoning which is avoided).

  3. 3.

    Compartmentalization: A compartmentalization of knowledge to prevent information from conflicting with existing belief. (Example: the false explanation could be tested by careful observation or reasoning; however, as it is difficult, this investigation is neglected and a misconception evolves, the interpretation of speed which is put in compartments like ‘speed from force’).

  4. 4.

    Assimilation: Assimilation of new information into existing naïve concepts. (Example: in the absence of critical thought, a false explanation will become a false representation).

These four cognitive features of recognition can explain the misconceptions. Considering these four steps, it seems obvious that different representations given to the students solving a problem can protect more or less from falling into misconceptions.

Reif identifies a procedure specifying a mathematics or science concept (Reif 1987, 1995). For example, the concept ‘acceleration’ consists of the five major steps (which should be illustrated in a figure): (1) identify the velocity; (2) velocity at a slightly later time; (3) find the small velocity change (should be done graphically by drawing); (4) find the ratio dividing by time difference and (5) calculation with the time difference chosen progressively closer to zero, this involves a subtle limiting process. Every step should be pointed out in the teaching process. This procedural concept provides a more detailed and explicit specification of a concept and helps to avoid imprecision, which can easily creep into verbal definition statements (Reif 1987, 1995). Accordingly, drawings can be assumed to be important for the understanding of scientific concepts.

Purpose of this study

The kind of representation used in teaching, which induces or avoids misconceptions of students, is investigated in this study. College students were asked to compare the time needed to complete the round trip riding a bicycle with and without wind blowing within 2 min.

The drawing provided shows vectors representing the velocity of the wind and the velocity of the rider. The velocity of the rider, as evoked through the length of the vector, is the same in both directions. The students had been told that the velocities have to be added to obtain the same velocity relative to the air. This should not easily evoke the idea that the rider is trying to maintain the same velocity to ground in both directions; otherwise, the students should have answered “Problem not clear/fail to answer”.

The purpose of this study was further investigation on misconceptions by comparing answers to questions in linear and diagrammatic form with different figures about the same everyday problem. The answers to the question are discussed in relation to well-known theories about education as well as psychological and neuroscience insight about learning and memory (Cahill et al. 1994; Erk et al. 2003). This literature on neuroscience describing the value of emotions for perception and reasoning process informed the focus of the study on the influence of different representations given with more or less emotions involved (such as image, figure, formula, definitions). The comparison of the influence of different representations is useful to find out which material or picture can evoke misconceptions and which can prevent them.



One hundred forty-two students at a university of applied sciences within the first semester were allocated to eight groups according to their surnames so as to have a random distribution. Each group was shown a different picture on an overhead projector and was asked the same question about movement involving a reciprocal relation. There were four different pictures; two groups were each shown the same picture, for control reasons. An everyday life experience had been chosen because such experiences have overwhelming importance in getting students involved in physics and to increase their attendance in classes (Donnelly 1998; Mahoy and Knutton 1997).


Students participating in the study were engaged in similar kinds of engineering courses at a large public German university of applied sciences. All 142 students were at the very beginning of their studies in the first week after term began.


The picture shown to them comprised of three parts: (a, upper part) a set of vectors with arrows, (b, middle part) a side view of two bikers moving in opposite directions and (c, lower part) a definition put in a formula.

The material given to the students to solve the problem had been reduced from reality. The drawing provided shows vectors representing the velocity of the wind and the velocity of the rider. The velocity of the rider relative to the air, as evoked through the length of the vector, is the same in both directions. The students had been told that the velocities have to be added to obtain the velocity relative to the air. This should easily evoke the idea that the rider tries to maintain the same velocity relative to the air (not to the ground) in both directions.

This instrument of dividing the picture into parts can be effective for serving the purpose of this study because the efficient part of the picture can be traced this way.The students were shown either the entire picture or a picture with one of the three parts (a), (b) or (c) left out (upper, middle or lower part of Figure 1) in order to find out which parts are essential to find the answer. The students were allowed help such as a calculator, a textbook, a paper and a pencil.

Figure 1

Picture shown to students, entire picture here.

When they looked at these pictures, the students were asked if a cyclist needs more, less or the same time cycling with or without wind for a fixed distance and the return journey. This question had to be answered anonymously and spontaneously within 2 min in each group. Since this question is about the time needed, finding the answer requires application of a reciprocal relation, since time for a constant movement is distance s divided by speed v. When speed is increased and altered by wind speed vWIND = ∆v, then the time t comes out to be:

t= s v + Δv + s v Δv = 2 sv v 2 Δ v 2 = 2 s v Δv Δv / v > 2 v v

Therefore, wind speed ∆v does not cancel out, but the total time is increased.

The problem students had to solve is highly reduced from reality and made several tacit assumptions. That the speed of wind has to be added to or subtracted into the velocity without wind will result to the same speed relative to the air in both directions. Consequently, the rider has to apply equal force while cycling in both directions, if the bike's internal friction and tire friction are neglected. This is in agreement with the experience that many people, when cycling, try to maintain a personal biomechanical optimal number of rotations per time rather that the same ground speed.


Research on students' misconceptions and movement including what it is, how and why it emerges

Students restricted to naïve belief or visual imagery (Sternberg 1985; diSessa 1993) will overlook the reciprocal relationship and guess the same time of the bicycle trip. Application of mathematical symbols or concepts will overcome naïve belief (diSessa 1993) and lead to the correct result, a longer time. Superficial interpretation of previous experience of bicycling by students can become a misconception of movement. It can be called a misconception if it is applied to another movement.

The differences between the two groups for each of the four pictures were not significant as they were well below one standard deviation σ “sigma”; one sigma σ is assumed here to be the square root of the number of students.

The results were tested for significance by a χ2-test, leaving out the students who failed to answer. The answers of the students were randomly distributed within each column of Table 1 (with one kind of picture presented), while the distribution of correct answers over the columns (with differed kinds of pictures presented) was highly significant (13.09 > 9.49). Significance of the inclusion of the drawing in the representation to find the correct answer was high.

Table 1 Answers to the same question using different material (different parts omitted)

The level of significance of the χ2 test has been chosen for 2 standard deviations with σ = 0.05, 1-σ = 0.95; (n = 2 degrees of freedom for each column and n = 4 for the entire table). The Parson condition for χ2 test is fulfilled, less than 20% of cells smaller than 5 (Table 2).

Table 2 Significance

The poor performance of students having no drawing was significant beyond two standard deviation levels (sigma σ).

Among the students who were shown the entire picture as well as students who were shown the picture either without vectors or without formula, 22% to 50% of found the right answer. In contrast, not one out of 23 students could find the correct answer when the drawing was omitted. This result is highly significant (more than two sigma), while all other deviations from one group to another were less than one or two sigma.


Results in the view of theories about learning

These results fit well into Piagetian perspectives on reasoning and cognitive development as students relied on assimilation to naïve believe unless forced by material given to them for accommodation for a concept change.

Also, these results fit well into the theories by Posner about learning concepts and misconceptions. Concerning the first of the cognitive steps of Posner, ‘rejection’ of an observational theory seems to be avoided when the students see a picture of the problem. Step 2 in Posner’s theory is ‘Avoid concern’, a lack of concern with experimental findings. The students regarding a meaningful picture seem to become aware of the experimental situation and avoid recurring to naïve belief or misconception. Careful observation of a meaningful picture can yield to correct information: the average velocity and thus indirectly the total time decrease while the vehicle faces the wind, the picture replaces real-life observation, and thus, misconceptions are avoided. Also, the picture avoids compartmentalization of knowledge: looking at the two wind directions simultaneously reminds the structure of the entire problem.

Regarding these results, drawings seem to protect best from misconceptions and this does not depend on other material given to the students.

Many students confused the concept of speed as a quotient applying a superficial thinking of time canceling out over the same distance, rather than thinking about different times needed for the two laps of the journey. This kind of ‘superficiality’ error is described by cognitive psychology (Reif 1987; Hammer 1996).

Students’ conceptual knowledge is highly incorrect because of confusion with preexisting knowledge acquired in daily life resulting in scientific misconceptions (Reif 1987). As Reif (1987, 1995) claimed, imprecision easily creeps into verbal definition statements, which would be avoided by explicit specification of a concept eventually recalled by a drawing.

This misconception seems not to be eliminated by school instruction, because of the strength and ease of superficial thinking as opposed to the task of applying scientific concepts (McDermott 1991). The answers reflect a superficial way of thinking (called ‘p-prim’ by diSessa 1993, diSessa and Sherin 1998) avoiding the complications of dividing distance into time to get speed. As they were not shown a drawing of the problem, more students fell into this superficial thinking, confirming the theory of ‘prevailing misconceptions’ (McDermott 1984).

The importance of figures or drawings to find the answer to the problem is not surprising if emergence of science in antiquity is considered. In classical antiquity, science attained a very high level (Freeth et al. 2006) without use of formulae or mathematical symbols; mathematical or physical arguments or proof made use of geometric drawings rather than calculus.


How to avoid students' misconception based on the first part by using the correct representations

In cognitive science, there is little literature on how drawing, as a particular representation, can prevent students from misconceptions. Since there is little existing research on this topic, further related studies are necessary.

What can help students to overcome misconceptions?

The ‘generic principle’ teaching method by Wagenschein may help to overcome misconceptions (Heymann 2010). He was using derivations from general experiences and everyday perception pronounced in his ideas about teaching; for example, the concept of inertia to school students. He taught geometry to children by asking them why the moon seems to follow you when you walk along an alley, asking them about different trees. He got the answer, the further the tree…the more it follows you…. In the same way, he recommends teaching inertia: friction in sand, the vehicle will stop soon; on ice, much later and without friction, it will run forever. The generic principle is based mainly on exemplarity (Skovsmose 2010) and visual perception and supported by the observation of drawings as teaching aids, which prevent misconception.

The misconceptions and poor comprehension in sciences found in first year students lead to the conjecture that more emphasis should be on procedures specifying concepts like those outlined by Reif (1987), Purcell (1997) and Griffiths (1997). The interpretation mode of concepts suggested by Reif (1987, 1995) relies on knowledge defining a concept by an explicit procedure specifying how to identify or construct the concept. Scientific misconceptions can be avoided by teaching students explicit concept specification, especially concept-interpretation procedures (Reif 1987).

This conclusion is strengthened by the connection found between misconceptions and the error made avoiding the change from the ontological categories matter or things to processes and mental states (Chi et al. 1994). Student feedback by voting machines can ease concept change by students (Reay et al. 2005, 2008; Ding et al. 2009).

Since misconceptions are seemingly founded on false preconceptions, more emphasis in science teaching should be on hands-on experiments, blackboard drawings without formulas and concept-oriented teaching in sciences. This might ease the problems found, as has been concluded by diStefano (1996a,[b]) and Gautreau and Novemsky (1997). One single experiment can change the situation and induce concept change (Abbott et al. 2000; Bao et al. 2002).

Involving emotional events in the process of teaching improves memory and eases overcoming misconceptions (Cahill et al. 1994). Therefore, suspense stories like “How Galileo overcame superstitions” raise emotions improving memory and attendance thus easing concept change, according to results of neurological research (Erk et al. 2003). This memory improvement is confirmed by research on perception of movement (Gibson and Gibson 1994; Shapiro 2010). When the question was answered by students, fewer misconceptions showed up when the question was described by a picture, which can raise emotions as when the question was put in a linear form.


  1. Abbott DE, Saul JM, Parker GW, Bleichner RJ: Can one lab make the difference? Physics education research. American Journal of Physics Suppl 2000,68(7):560–561.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Adey P: The CASE results: implications for science teaching. International Journal of Science Education 1992,14(2):137–146. 10.1080/0950069920140202

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bao L, Hogg K, Zollman D: Model analysis of fine structures of student models: An example with Newton’s third law. American Journal of Physics 2002, 70: 766–778. 10.1119/1.1484152

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Cahill L, Prins B, Weber M, McGaugh JL: Beta-adrenergic activation and memory for emotional events. Nature 1994, 371: 702–704. 10.1038/371702a0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Caramazza A, McCloskey M, Green B: Naive beliefs in sophisticated subjects: misconceptions about trajectories of objects. Cognition 1981, 9: 117–123. 10.1016/0010-0277(81)90007-X

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Chi MTH, Feltovich PJ, Glaser R: Categorisation and representation of physics problems by experts and novices. Cognitive Science 1981, 5: 121–152. 10.1207/s15516709cog0502_2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chi MTH, Slotta JD, DeLeeuw N: From things to process: a theory of conceptual change for learning science concepts. Learn. Instruction 1994,4(1):27–43. 10.1016/0959-4752(94)90017-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Coleman LA, Holcomb DF, Ridgen JS: The Introductory University Physics Project 1987–1995: What is accomplished? American Journal of Physics 1998, 66: 124. 10.1119/1.18830

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Ding L, Reay NW, Lee A, Bao L: Are we asking the right questions? Validating clicker question sequences by student interviews. American Journal of Physics 2009,77(7):643–650. 10.1119/1.3116093

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. diSessa AA: Towards an epistemology of physics. Cognition and Instruction 1993,10(2–3):105–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. diSessa AA, Sherin BL: What changes in conceptual change? International Journal of Science Education 1998,20(10):1155–1191. 10.1080/0950069980201002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. diStefano R: Preliminary IUPP results: student reactions to in - class demonstrations and to the presentation of coherent themes. American Journal of Physics 1996,64(1):58–68. 10.1119/1.18293

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. diStefano R: The IUPP evaluation: what we are trying to learn and how we were trying to learn it. American Journal of Physics 1996,64(1):49–57. 10.1119/1.18292

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Donnelly JF: The place of the laboratory in secondary science teaching. International Journal of Science Education 1998,20(5):585–596. 10.1080/0950069980200506

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Erk S, Kiefer M, Grothe J, Wunderlich AP, Spitzer M, Walter H: Emotional context modulates subsequent memory effect. Neuroimage 2003, 18: 439–447. 10.1016/S1053-8119(02)00015-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Freeth T, Bitsakis Y, Moussas X, Seiradakis JH, Tselikas A, Mangou H, Zafeiropoulou M, Hadland R, Bate D, Ramsay A, Allen M, Crawley A, Hockley P, Malzbender T, Gelb D, Ambrisco W, Edmunds MG: Decoding the ancient Greek astronomical calculator known as the Antikythera Mechanism. Nature 2006,444(30):587–591.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Gautreau R, Novemsky L: Concepts first - a small group approach to physics learning. American Journal of Physics 1997,65(5):418–428. 10.1119/1.18552

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Gibson JJ, Gibson EJ: Continuous perspective transformations and the perception of rigid motion. In An Odyssey in Learning and Perception. Edited by: Gibson EJ. Cambridge: Bradford MIT Press; 1994:247–262.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Griffiths DJ: Millican Lecture 1997: Is there a text in this class? American Journal of Physics 1997,65(12):1141–1143. 10.1119/1.18777

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Halloun IA, Hestenes D: Modelling instruction in mechanics. American Journal of Physics 1987,55(5):455–462. 10.1119/1.15130

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Hammer D: More than misconceptions: multiple perspectives on student knowledge and reasoning, and an appropriate role for education research. American Journal of Physics 1996,64(10):1316–1325. 10.1119/1.18376

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Hammer D: Student resources for learning introductory physics. American Journal of Physics 2000,68(Su):52–59.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Hestenes D: Who needs physics education research? American Journal of Physics 1998, 66: 465. 10.1119/1.18898

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Heymann HW: Why teach mathematics?: A focus on general education. In Mathematics Education Library. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Acade. Publ. - Springer; 2010:180–186, 235–239.

    Google Scholar 

  25. James MC, Willoughby S: Listening to student conversations during clicker questions: what you have not heard might surprise you. American Journal of Physics 2012, 80: 123–132.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Kautz CH, Loverude ME, Heron PRL: Student understanding of the first law of thermodynamics: relating work to the adiabatic compression of an ideal gas. American Journal of Physics 2002,70(2):137–148. 10.1119/1.1417532

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kautz CH, Flores S, Kamin SE: Student use of vectors in introductory mechanics. American Journal of Physics 2004,72(4):460–468. 10.1119/1.1648686

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Kautz CH, Heron PRL, Loverude ME, McDermott LC: Student understanding of the ideal gas law, part I: a macroscopic perspective. American Journal of Physics 2005,73(11):1055–1063. 10.1119/1.2049286

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Kautz CH, Heron PRL, Shaffer PS, McDermott LC: Student understanding of the ideal gas law, part II: a microscopic perspective. American Journal of Physics 2005,73(11):1064–1071. 10.1119/1.2060715

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Kruger CJ, Summers MK, Palacio DJ: An investigation of some English primary school teachers’ understanding of the concepts force and gravity. British Educational Research Journal 1990, 16: 383–397. 10.1080/0141192900160406

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Larkin J, McDermott J, Simon DP, Simon HA: Expert and novice performance in solving physics problems. Science 1980, 208: 1335–1342. 10.1126/science.208.4450.1335

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Laws PW: Millican Lecture 1996: Promoting active learning based on physics education research in introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics 1997,65(1):14–21. 10.1119/1.18496

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Licht P, Thijs GD: Method to trace coherence and persistence of preconceptions. International Journal of Science Education 1990, 12: 403–416. 10.1080/0950069900120407

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Lorenzo M: The development, implementation and evaluation of a problem solving heuristic, Int . Internation Journal of Science and Mathematics Education 2005, 3: 33–58. 10.1007/s10763-004-8359-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Mahoy KA, Knutton S: Using out-of-school experience in science lessons: reality or rhetoric? International Journal of Science Education 1997,19(7):849–867. 10.1080/0950069970190708

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. McCloskey M: Intuitive physics. Scientific American 1983,248(4):122–130. 10.1038/scientificamerican0483-122

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. McDermott LC: Research on conceptual understanding in mechanics. Physics Today 1984, 7: 24–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. McDermott LC: Millican Lecture: What we teach and what is learned- closing the gap. American Journal of Physics 1991,59(4):301–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Mestre JP: Learning and instruction in pre-college physical science. Physics Today 1991, 9: 56–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Palmer JA: Fifty Modern Thinkers on Education from Piaget to Present. 7th edition. New York: Routledge; 2007:39–41.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Piaget J: De la pédagogie. Paris: Odile Jakob; 1998:99–175.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Piaget J (chapters IV and V), Paris: Armand Colin. Translation: Cotta, (1998). In la psychologie de l’ Intelligence. 10th edition. Stuttgart: Cotta; 2000:99–175.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Posner GJ, Strike KA, Hewson PW, Gertzog WA: Accommodation of a scientific conception: toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education 1982,66(2):211–227. 10.1002/sce.3730660207

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Purcell EM: The new practical physics. American Journal of Physics 1997,65(8):692–697. 10.1119/1.18667

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Reay NW, Bao L, Li P, Warnakulasooriya R, Baugh G: Toward the effective use of voting machines in physics lectures. American Journal of Physics 2005,73(6):554–558. 10.1119/1.1862638

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Reay NW, Li P, Bao L: Testing a new voting machine question methodology. American Journal of Physics 2008,76(2):171–178. 10.1119/1.2820392

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Rebello NS, Zollman DA: The effect of distracters on student performance on the force concept inventory. American Journal of Physics 2004,72(1):116–125. 10.1119/1.1629091

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Reif F: Interpretation of scientific or mathematical concepts: cognitive issues and instructional implications. Cognitive Science 1987, 11: 395–416. 10.1207/s15516709cog1104_1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Reif F: Understanding and teaching important scientific thought processes. American Journal of Physics 1995,63(1):17–32. 10.1119/1.17764

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Resnick LB: Mathematics and science learning: a new conception. Science 1985, 220: 477–478.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Rigden JS, Holcomb DF, DiStefano R: The introductory university physics project. Physics Today Ap 1993, 32–37.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Shapiro L: Embodied Cognition. New York: Routledge; 2010:29–30. London: Taylor & Francis London: Taylor & Francis

    Google Scholar 

  53. Skovsmose O: Thematic approach in mathematics education: exemplarity. In Towards a Philosophy of Critical Mathematics Education (Mathematics Education Library). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers - Springer; 2010:73–78.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Sternberg RA: Human intelligence: the model is the message. Science 1985, 230: 1111–1118. 10.1126/science.230.4730.1111

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. van Heuvelen A: Learning to think like a physicist: a review of research-based instructional strategies. American Journal of Physics 1991,59(10):891–897. 10.1119/1.16667

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. van Heuvelen A: Overview, CASE study physics. American Journal of Physics 1991,59(10):898–907. 10.1119/1.16668

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Matthias R Risch.

Additional information

Competing interests

The author declares that he has no competing interests.

Authors’ original submitted files for images

Below are the links to the authors’ original submitted files for images.

Authors’ original file for figure 1

Rights and permissions

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Risch, M.R. Investigation about representations used in teaching to prevent misconceptions regarding inverse proportionality. IJ STEM Ed 1, 4 (2014).

Download citation


  • Representation
  • Inverse proportionality
  • Misconceptions
  • Procedures