Editor selections by Topic and Unit

The Physics Front is a free service provided by the AAPT in partnership with the NSF/NSDL.

Conceptual Physics: Magnetism and Magnetic Force Units

Magnetic fields can be defined as the regions surrounding a magnet where a moving electric charge will feel a force of attraction or repulsion. Invisible magnetic field lines emerge from the North pole of a magnet and enter the South pole. Field lines can be visualized by sprinkling small iron filings over a magnet covered by a clear sheet of plastic. When a compass (or any freely floating bar magnet) points north, it is actually aligning its north pole to the Earth's magnetic south pole.

  What is Magnetism? (7)

Lesson Plans:

This page has many resources that teachers can use when developing lesson plans on the various categories within magnetism.


This has a great lab or activity to use when demonstrating magnetic fields to your students.

References and Collections:

This page gives many descriptions and details of magnetism in the earth.

This collection of 41 interactive java tutorials would be an excellent choice to connect physics to "real-world" applications.  Designed by well-respected authors, the topics range from simulated magnetic fields and field lines to primers on capacitance, resistance, Ohm's Law, and electromagnetic induction.  Included are simulations on how things work, such as vacuum tube diodes, cathode rays,  capacitors, AC/DC generators, hard drives, pulsed magnets, and speakers.

Content Support For Teachers:

People not familiar with magnetism often view it as a somewhat mysterious property of specially treated metals.

Student Tutorials:

This page is a great tutorial for students and/or teachers who want to know more about magnetic fields.

This resource is a student tutorial on magnetism appropriate for middle school or 9th grade Physical Science.  It is organized into sequenced headings that each contain interactive simulations and reflective questions.  The first half of the tutorial gives students a conceptual framework to understand properties of magnets and magnetic behavior.  The topics then broaden to include magnetic lines of force, magnetic field, electromagnets, electric motors, and galvanometers.

  What Materials are Magnetic? (1)

Lesson Plans:

  The Earth as a Magnet (1)

  Magnetic Fields (3)

Lesson Plans:

This lesson contains instructions for conducting an inquiry-based lab to investigate current-carrying coils in magnetic fields.


This series of inquiry-based activities is designed for the beginning high school physics lab.  Students explore the effect of an external field on a current-carrying wire in that field.  Students need only very basic prior experience with concepts related to magnetism.  Student study guides are included.

Perhaps the most important result of Faraday's experimentation was the discovery of the electric generator, which transforms mechanical energy into electric energy.  This item is a simple interactive simulation that depicts voltage amplitude in a direct current generator.  By moving the mouse on a slider, students can see how the frequency of the current is related to voltage and to the speed of the rotating coil.