Teaching Students About Examples of Newton’s Laws


Newton’s laws of motion form the basic principles that explain and predict the motion of objects since they were published in 1687 by Sir Isaac Newton. These three fundamental laws are widely regarded as the foundation of classical mechanics and are crucial to understanding physics. As educators, it’s essential to effectively teach these concepts to students, using real-life examples that can significantly enhance their grasp of these laws.

This article focuses on ways to teach Newton’s laws using examples that can resonate with students.

Newton’s First Law (The Law of Inertia)

The first law states that an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and direction unless acted upon by a net external force.

Example: A soccer ball on the field will remain where it is until a player applies an external force by kicking it. The force will move the ball, and it will continue moving until something else like friction or another person stops it.

Teaching Tip: Use hands-on activities such as pushing various objects across a table to feel the effect of friction acting against them when they slow down. Conduct experiments with objects like marbles rolling down ramps and discuss the external forces acting upon them.

Newton’s Second Law (The Law of Acceleration)

The second law states that acceleration is directly proportional to net force acting on an object and inversely proportional to its mass. The formula for this law is F = ma (Force equals Mass times Acceleration).

Example: Consider two people pushing shopping carts with different masses. The more massive cart needs more force for acceleration than a lighter cart pushed with the same amount of effort.

Teaching Tip: Provide students with different weighted objects and demonstrate how varying amounts of force affect their acceleration. Calculate how much force is needed for a specific mass so they gain a clearer understanding of this law.

Newton’s Third Law (Action and Reaction)

The third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Example: As we jump off a diving board, the diving board’s surface pushes us back with an equal but opposite force. This principle can also be observed when rowing a boat or when a rocket propels itself into space — the action force is pushing against the water or expelling gases, which produces a reaction force that propels the movement.

Teaching Tip: Stage a tug-of-war between students, highlighting that forces work in pairs – one group pulls while the other group works against it with equal force. Investigate how action-reaction forces function with rubber bands stretched between two people when one person pulls the band back and releases it.


Teaching students using practical examples of Newton’s laws will solidify their comprehension of these essential concepts. By exploring these laws in everyday situations, educators can ensure that students grasp the principles and build a strong foundation for understanding and appreciating physics in the future.

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