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Key Idea: Energy is released when fuel is burned. Energy is also released when food is used as fuel in animals.

Students should know that:

  1. An increase in temperature or the production of light or sound when fuels are burned indicates that energy is released (given off).
  2. Some fuels release more energy when they are burned than other fuels.
  3. For any particular fuel, the more fuel that is burned, the more energy is released (assuming an unlimited supply of oxygen).
  4. The energy released when fuel is burned can be used to make something move or to light or warm a room.
  5. When animals (including humans) use food as fuel, the energy released is used by the animal to carry out life functions such as moving, building body structures, and staying warm.

 

Boundaries:

  1. The term “chemical energy” is not used in Basic level items because energy is treated as a unified concept at this level and not in its various forms.
  2. Assessment items may describe chemical reactions at the substance level, and will not refer to atoms and molecules. For example, students will be told in the items that burning is a process during which fuel reacts with oxygen to form new substances with different properties.
  3. Assessment items use familiar fuels, e.g. gasoline, coal, propane, oil, natural gas, and wood.
  4. Students are not expected to know that plants use food as fuel to carry our life functions.
Percent of students answering correctly (click on the item ID number to view the item and additional data)
Item ID
Number
Knowledge Being Assessed Grades
4–5
Grades
6–8
Grades
9–12
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RG017003

A car gets the energy it needs to move by burning the gasoline.

73%

79%

77%

RG016003

A rabbit gets energy by using food as a fuel.

64%

73%

76%

RG015003

Burning more wood in a campfire will release more energy.

75%

70%

66%

RG014004

Energy is given off by a burning candle because the flame gives off light and heats the air.

55%

68%

70%

Frequency of selecting a misconception

Misconception
ID Number

Student Misconception

Grades
4–5

Grades
6–8

Grades
9–12

NGM015

When a cold and a warm object are placed in contact with each other, the warm object gets colder and the cold object gets warmer because “coldness” is transferred from one object to the other (Brook, Briggs, Bell, & Driver, 1984; Newell & Ross, 1996).

22%

14%

12%

RGM030

Animals, including humans, make new energy when they sleep (Mann, 2010).

20%

10%

9%

EGM001

Energy is associated mainly with human beings, not inanimate objects (Finegold & Trumper, 1989; Kruger, 1990; Kruger, Palacino, & Summers, 1992; Leggett, 2003; Liu & Tang, 2004; Solomon, 1983; Stead, 1980; Trumper, 1990, 1993, 1997a, 1997b; Trumper & Gorsky, 1993; Watts, 1983).

15%

11%

10%

RGM020

“The energy for the life processes of living organisms comes directly from the sun” (Sanders, 1993).

9%

11%

9%

NGM010

Energy can be created (Kruger, 1990; Lovrude, 2004; Papadouris et al., 2008).

13%

8%

7%

EGM005

Objects at rest have no energy. Energy is associated only with obvious activity or movement (Brook & Driver, 1984; Finegold & Trumper, 1989; Kruger, 1990; Kruger et al., 1992; Stead, 1980; Summers & Kruger, 1993; Trumper, 1990, 1997a, 1997b, 1998; Trumper & Gorsky, 1993; Watts, 1983). For example, when asked for examples of energy, students say: “A fire burning…a telephone ringing…chemicals frothing…people running…that sort of thing” (Watts, 1983).

9%

7%

8%

EGM048

Living things give inanimate objects energy by carrying or pushing them. For example, a person gives a bike energy by riding it or a bird give a stick energy by carrying it (Herrmann-Abell & DeBoer, 2010).

8%

7%

8%

NGM037

An object always gains energy as it moves. For example, the height that a pendulum reaches after it is released is greater than its starting height because it gains energy as it swings (Loverude, 2004).

7%

7%

6%

Frequency of selecting a misconception was calculated by dividing the total number of times a misconception was chosen by the number of times it could have been chosen, averaged over the number of students answering the questions within this particular idea.