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Science Misconception: Are Mass and Weight the Same Thing?
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Science Area:  Physics 

Misconception:

 

Mass and Weight are the same thing.

 

Facts: Weight and Mass are two different things.  The force of gravity acting upon an object or person is referred to as the weight of the object or person.  The mass of an object or person refers to the amount of matter that is contained by the person or object.   

 

Explanation: 

 

Students often use the terms weight and mass interchangeably.  This is not accurate as the two terms each have different meanings.  Weight is the force of gravity acting upon a person or object.  Mass refers to the total amount of matter contained by the person or object. 

 

 

Suggested Activity:

 

Have students calculate their weight and mass on the moon.  For example, Joe Average weighs himself on the Earth's surface and then on the Moon's surface. His weight on the Moon will be about six times less than on the Earth but the number of atoms in his body has not changed so his mass is the same at the two places.  This will demonstrate that weight and mass are two different things.  To figure out the students weight on the moon, take their current weight and multiply it by 1/6. 

 

Source:  Misconceptions about weight and mass.

http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/distance/strobel/gravappl/gravappla.htm