Key Idea: Small changes to the surface of the earth caused by wind and water can add up to large changes over long periods of time (i.e., over thousands to millions of years).

Students are expected to know that:

  1. Wind and water continuously wears away, moves, and drops rock material, even if it is by such small amounts that the changes cannot be seen without the help of instruments.
  2. Changes to the earth’s surface by wind and water that occur over relatively short time periods can add up to very large changes over long time periods. Because mountains and valleys are so large, and because even changes that occur over a year are relatively small compared to the size of the mountain or valley, it often takes many millions of years for wind and water to cause large changes to their shape and size.
  3. As a result of the continuous action of wind and water, all places on earth look different today from how they looked in the past and from how they will look in the future.
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
6–8
Grades
9–12
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WE056001

The solid rock of mountains was being worn down by wind and water millions of years ago, and it is being worn down by wind and water today.

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WE026004

Moving water continuously wears down earth's solid rock layer, which changes the shape of a valley even if you cannot see it happening.

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WE063001

Wind wore away the solid rock of valleys millions of years ago and continues to wear away the solid rock of valleys today.

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WE031002

It takes many millions of years to wear away a mountain until it is almost flat.

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WE038002

The continuous movement of wind and water changes the size of mountains over many millions of years

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WE062002

The solid rock of valleys was being worn away by wind millions of years ago, and it is being worn away by wind today.

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WE025005

Wind and water can wear away the solid rock of a mountain over many millions of years.

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WE018003

Moving water continuously wears down earth's solid rock layer whenever water is moving over the rock, even if you cannot see it happening.

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WE019003

Whenever wind moves against the solid rock of a mountain, a little bit of the rock is worn away, even if you cannot see it.

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WE048001

Water can gradually wear away the solid rock of mountains as much as thousands of feet over many millions of years.

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WE039002

Water can gradually wear away the solid rock of river valleys as much as thousands of feet over millions of years.

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WE059001

Rain wears away very small amounts of the rock of a cliff whenever the rain falls.

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WE050001

Wind can gradually wear away the solid rock of river valleys as much as thousands of feet over millions of years.

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WE049001

Wind can gradually wear away the solid rock of mountains as much as thousands of feet over many millions of years.

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Frequency of selecting a misconception

Misconception
ID Number

Student Misconception

Grades
6–8

Grades
9–12

WEM107

Wind can wear away the solid rock of mountains only a small amount (feet or inches) over millions of years, not thousands of feet (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

55%

55%

WEM095

Wind can make a valley deeper by only a small amount (feet or inches) over millions of years (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

55%

55%

WEM094

Water can wear away only a small amount of a mountain's height (feet or inches) over millions of years (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

55%

53%

WEM091

It takes rain a long time to wear away solid rock, even very small amounts that you cannot see (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

54%

53%

WEM096

Water can wear down the solid rock of a river valley only a small amount (feet or inches) over millions of years (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

54%

52%

WEM030

Wind can only wear down solid rock over long time periods. Changes are not happening over short time periods (i.e., a day or a year) (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

50%

48%

WEM086

Moving water can only wear down solid rock over long time periods. Changes are not happening over short time periods (i.e., a day or a year) (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

47%

42%

WEM067

Moving water can only change the surface of the earth over long time periods. Changes are not happening over short time periods (i.e., a day or a year) (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

33%

27%

WEM105

Wind is wearing away the solid rock of valleys today but did not wear away the solid rock of valleys in the past (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

27%

21%

WEM104

Wind wore away the solid rock of valleys in the past but is not wearing away the solid rock of valleys today (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

25%

20%

WEM022

Wind and water only change the surface of the earth during rare events, such as huge storms (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

20%

20%

WEM050

It only takes hundreds of years for wind and water to wear away the solid rock of a mountain (bedrock) so that the mountain is almost flat (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

18%

17%

WEM070

Solid rock was being worn away by wind many years ago, but it is no longer being worn away by wind today (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

16%

16%

WEM062

Wind and water changed the surface of the earth in the past but are no longer changing the surface of the earth (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

16%

12%

WEM071

Solid rock is currently being worn away by wind, but it was not being worn away by wind many years ago (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

13%

13%

WEM029

Landforms look similar today as they did many millions of years ago. For example, a river on earth today hasn’t changed over time (Dove, 1998; Trend, 1998).

12%

11%

WEM051

Landforms can change in size, but not by the motion of wind and water (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

11%

10%

WEM063

Wind and water are changing the surface of the earth today but did not change the surface of the earth in the past (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

10%

13%

WEM028

Erosion can wear away solid rock a little bit but could never have a big effect on the surface of the earth such as leveling mountains or carving valleys (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

11%

10%

WEM038

Wind and water cannot wear away the solid rock of a mountain (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

10%

11%

WEM106

It takes only a short time (tens of years) for wind and water to wear down the solid rock of a mountain so that the mountain is almost flat (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

11%

8%

WEM092

Rain cannot wear away solid rock (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

9%

9%

WEM072

Wind cannot wear away solid rock (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

9%

10%

WEM090

Water cannot wear away solid rock (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

9%

7%

WEM087

Moving water cannot wear down solid rock (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

8%

7%

WEM068

Moving water cannot wear away solid rock to change the shape of a valley (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

4%

8%

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.