This simulation-based activity for middle school was developed to help students build a foundation to understand basic wave properties. It was created by a middle school teacher to be used specifically with the PhET simulation "Wave on a String". It guides learners in data collection as they explore amplitude, wavelength, and frequency. Included are lesson plans, pre-lab concept questions, an inquiry-based partner activity (Day 1), and step-by-step student guide for the Day 2 computer simulation activity. This author was awarded the PhET Gold Star for excellence.
The wave simulation, which must be open and displayed to complete this activity, is available from PhET at: Wave on a String.
This lesson is part of PhET (Physics Education Technology Project), a large collection of free interactive simulations for science education.
Please note that this resource requires
Editor's Note:Physics education research in the past decade indicates that students have commonly-held misconceptions about how waves originate, move, and behave. This resource works to dispel the myths by providing scaffolds for using the wave simulator. The activities are well-sequenced to promote the critical thinking that will help learners make connections among wave frequency, amplitude, speed, and structure of the medium.
Metadata instance created
April 19, 2012
by Caroline Hall
August 18, 2016
by Lyle Barbato
Last Update when Cataloged:
July 25, 2011
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
4. The Physical Setting
6-8: 4F/M4. Vibrations in materials set up wavelike disturbances that spread away from the source. Sound and earthquake waves are examples. These and other waves move at different speeds in different materials.
6-8: 4F/M7. Wave behavior can be described in terms of how fast the disturbance spreads, and in terms of the distance between successive peaks of the disturbance (the wavelength).
9-12: 4F/H6ab. Waves can superpose on one another, bend around corners, reflect off surfaces, be absorbed by materials they enter, and change direction when entering a new material. All these effects vary with wavelength.
9. The Mathematical World
9B. Symbolic Relationships
6-8: 9B/M2. Rates of change can be computed from differences in magnitudes and vice versa.
6-8: 9C/M4. The graphic display of numbers may help to show patterns such as trends, varying rates of change, gaps, or clusters that are useful when making predictions about the phenomena being graphed.
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11B/M2. Mathematical models can be displayed on a computer and then modified to see what happens.
6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
12. Habits of Mind
12C. Manipulation and Observation
6-8: 12C/M3. Make accurate measurements of length, volume, weight, elapsed time, rates, and temperature by using appropriate devices.
12D. Communication Skills
6-8: 12D/M1. Organize information in simple tables and graphs and identify relationships they reveal.
6-8: 12D/M4. Understand oral, written, or visual presentations that incorporate circle charts, bar and line graphs, two-way data tables, diagrams, and symbols.
6-8: 12D/M8. Explain a scientific idea to someone else, checking understanding and responding to questions.
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments
Ratios and Proportional Relationships (6-7)
Analyze proportional relationships and use them to solve real-world
and mathematical problems. (7)
7.RP.2.a Decide whether two quantities are in a proportional relationship, e.g., by testing for equivalent ratios in a table or graphing on a coordinate plane and observing whether the graph is a straight line through the origin.
Expressions and Equations (6-8)
Represent and analyze quantitative relationships between
dependent and independent variables. (6)
6.EE.9 Use variables to represent two quantities in a real-world problem that change in relationship to one another; write an equation to express one quantity, thought of as the dependent variable, in terms of the other quantity, thought of as the independent variable. Analyze the relationship between the dependent and independent variables using graphs and tables, and relate these to the equation.
Define, evaluate, and compare functions. (8)
8.F.2 Compare properties of two functions each represented in a different way (algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions).
Use functions to model relationships between quantities. (8)
8.F.5 Describe qualitatively the functional relationship between two quantities by analyzing a graph (e.g., where the function is increasing or decreasing, linear or nonlinear). Sketch a graph that exhibits the qualitative features of a function that has been described verbally.
This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.
Topic: Wave Energy Unit Title: Wave Properties: Frequency, Amplitude, Period, Phase
This PhET Gold Star winning lesson provides a fun way for middle school students to build a foundation to understand basic wave properties. It guides learners in data collection as they explore amplitude, wavelength, and frequency. Includes lesson plan, pre-lab concept questions, an inquiry-based partner activity (Day 1) and step-by-step student guide for the Day 2 computer modeling activity.
%0 Electronic Source %A The PhET Project, %A Esler, Jackie %D July 25, 2011 %T PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave %V 2016 %N 11 December 2016 %8 July 25, 2011 %9 text/html %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3447
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