Many students enrolled in introductory mechanics courses have difficulties with understanding the concept of static equilibrium. Some of these difficulties are related to the concept of force in the context of tension in massless strings. We identify three kinds of misconceptions: Students’ beliefs that the angle of the string and proximity to the object are related to the tension. Students also use incorrect compensation arguments to reason about situations where both the angle and proximity change simultaneously. These difficulties were identified during investigations conducted in laboratory and lecture sessions at three universities in the United States and Mexico.

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Supplementary Material

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