First Attempts at “Cause Statements”

How are these students thinking about causality?

What should I ask next?

“Electrical charge is caused due to the movement of electrons from atom to atom.”

“The appearance and properties of atoms are changed cause protons are added or removed from it.”

“Atoms are the basic building block of matter because all matter contains atoms.”

“Atoms are electrons, protons, and neutrons and are bound together by magnetic forces.”

“Electrons excess makes charge negative, while protons excess makes charge positive.  Why are these the charges?”

“Electrons cancel out protons because of the protons’ positive charge.”

“Electrons likely move so slow due to the difficulty of exerting force on them.”

“Electrons in motion cause excess energy called tails.”

“When electrons are further away it causes them to have higher energy levels.”

“The positive parts ‘want’ electrons because they are oppositely charged and so they are attracted to each other.”

“A photon absorbed by an electron causes it to escape from the atom.”

“What causes charge to never be created or destroyed?”







  1. how about “why?” or “how do you know?” or maybe “how do we know?” Take the magnetism one. I wonder how long a “why” conversation would go. I suppose it could end abruptly with “because” but it could also end with puzzlement that leads to learning.

    • Thanks for the thoughts Andy. I do wonder what to do with the frustrated insistence that “that’s just what opposite charges do.”

      I like the distinction between “how do you know” and “how do we know” — I think it will shift the focus from defending their high school teachers to wondering what evidence scientists gathered to support each idea in the first place.

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