Although magnetic materials had been studied for over 2000 years, it was not until the development of quantum mechanics in the early years of the 20th century that any satisfactory explanation of their properties could be provided. This paper outlines some of the difficulties that this fact presents for teachers attempting to explain permanent magnetism to learners at different levels who do not have a background in quantum physics. The authors suggest how a consistent and physically correct approach may be achieved.

It is known that magnetic phenomena have been studied for at least two millennia in Greece,1 China,2 Mesoamerica,3,4 India,5 and, one can assume, in other parts of the world where mineral magnetite (lodestone) occurs naturally. Today, permanent magnets of various shapes and sizes together with magnetic compasses are widely used for discovery learning and experiments in primary school classrooms.6,7 The study of magnetic...

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