Momentum and Collisions

It has been suggested by some that the concept of momentum is more intuitive and accessible for students to grasp than acceleration and some courses have been designed to introduce momentum before acceleration. When studying motion it is common for students to muddle and merge speed, velocity and acceleration into ‘movement’ and not adequately differentiate between them. The view of the ‘momentum first’ teaching approach is partly that that momentum is more accessible as a measurement of ‘movementness’  rather than the rate of change of a rate of change (i.e. acceleration). Either way, there is a message here for teachers about making sure we are clear and separate these overlapping ideas otherwise the students will struggle.

It is very common for questions to all be about trucks and cars and if we leave aside the potential gender bias here there is a danger that students can see the measurement and conservation of momentum as a specific and not universal thing, so a variation of contexts is encouraged. Students will benefit from plenty of practice with calculations and equations, like those given here and it's also great to bring the topic right up to date with the computing and space station contexts.

Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance