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written by the The PhET Project and Trish Loeblein
This is an instructional unit on the topic of waves, created for use in the high school physics classroom.  It was designed to be used with interactive simulations developed by PhET, the Physics Education Technology project.  Included are detailed lessons for integrating labs, simulations, demonstrations, and concept questions to introduce students to properties and behaviors of waves. Specific topics include frequency and wavelength, sound, the wave nature of light, geometric optics, resonance, wave interference, Doppler Effect, refraction, thin lenses, wave addition, and more.  Activities are aligned to AAAS Benchmarks.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Modeling
- Geometrical Optics
Oscillations & Waves
- Oscillations
= Simple Harmonic Motion
= Springs and Oscillators
- Wave Motion
= Doppler Effect
= Interference and Diffraction
= Longitudinal Pulses and Waves
= Transverse Pulses and Waves
= Wave Properties of Sound
- High School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Upper Undergraduate
- Collection
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Best practice
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Unit of Instruction
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Educators
- Learners
- application/pdf
- image/gif
- image/jpeg
- text/html
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Free access
© 2006 The PhET Project
Fourier, Fourier Analysis, PHET, Phet, clicker questions, homework problems, labs, lesson plans, sound waves, wave superposition, waves
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created April 17, 2008 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
March 31, 2008
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M2. Something can be "seen" when light waves emitted or reflected by it enter the eye—just as something can be "heard" when sound waves from it enter the ear.
  • 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/M5. Human eyes respond to only a narrow range of wavelengths of electromagnetic waves-visible light. Differences of wavelength within that range are perceived as differences of color.
  • 6-8: 4F/M6. Light acts like a wave in many ways. And waves can explain how light behaves.
  • 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/H5ab. The observed wavelength of a wave depends upon the relative motion of the source and the observer. If either is moving toward the other, the observed wavelength is shorter; if either is moving away, the wavelength is longer.
  • 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.
  • 9-12: 4F/H6c. The energy of waves (like any form of energy) can be changed into other forms of energy.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 9-12: 11B/H3. The usefulness of a model can be tested by comparing its predictions to actual observations in the real world. But a close match does not necessarily mean that other models would not work equally well or better.
11D. Scale
  • 6-8: 11D/M3. Natural phenomena often involve sizes, durations, and speeds that are extremely small or extremely large. These phenomena may be difficult to appreciate because they involve magnitudes far outside human experience.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

High School — Functions (9-12)

Interpreting Functions (9-12)
  • F-IF.4 For a function that models a relationship between two quantities, interpret key features of graphs and tables in terms of the quantities, and sketch graphs showing key features given a verbal description of the relationship.?
  • F-IF.5 Relate the domain of a function to its graph and, where applicable, to the quantitative relationship it describes.?
  • F-IF.6 Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.
  • F-IF.7.a Graph linear and quadratic functions and show intercepts, maxima, and minima.
Building Functions (9-12)
  • F-BF.3 Identify the effect on the graph of replacing f(x) by f(x) + k, k f(x), f(kx), and f(x + k) for specific values of k (both positive and negative); find the value of k given the graphs. Experiment with cases and illustrate an explanation of the effects on the graph using technology. Include recognizing even and odd functions from their graphs and algebraic expressions for them.
Trigonometric Functions (9-12)
  • F-TF.5 Choose trigonometric functions to model periodic phenomena with specified amplitude, frequency, and midline.?
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The PhET Project and T. Loeblein, (2006), WWW Document, (
The PhET Project and T. Loeblein, PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit (2006), <>.
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The PhET Project, & Loeblein, T. (2008, March 31). PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from
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The PhET Project, and Trish Loeblein. PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit. March 31, 2008. (accessed 20 July 2024).
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The PhET Project, and Trish Loeblein. PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit. 2006. 31 Mar. 2008. 20 July 2024 <>.
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@misc{ Author = "The PhET Project and Trish Loeblein", Title = {PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {20 July 2024}, Month = {March 31, 2008}, Year = {2006} }
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%Q The PhET Project %A Trish Loeblein %T PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit %D March 31, 2008 %U %O application/pdf

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PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Wave Unit:

Is Part Of PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Browse Activities

This is the full collection of teacher-created lesson plans and labs designed to be used with specific PhET simulations.  Each resource has been approved by the PhET project, and may be freely downloaded.

relation by Bruce Mason
Supplements PhET Simulation: Sound

One of the PhET simulations which the author intended to be used with this particular unit of instruction for high school physics students.

relation by Caroline Hall

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