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written by the The PhET Project and Nancy Flowers
This is a four-page student guide developed for use with the PhET "Wave on a String" simulation.  Written by a high school teacher, the activity provides a roadmap for secondary physical science students to learn about wave properties in an interactive environment.  Students explore how amplitude, frequency, and wavelength affect the movement and speed of a wave.

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.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Longitudinal Pulses and Waves
= Transverse Pulses and Waves
- High School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Problem/Problem Set
- Assessment Material
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Activity
- Assessment
- New teachers
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© 2006 The PhET Project
PHET, Phet, assessment, homework problems, longitudinal waves, transverse waves, waves
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 16, 2009 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
April 30, 2008

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

2. The Nature of Mathematics

2A. Patterns and Relationships
  • 9-12: 2A/H1. Mathematics is the study of quantities and shapes, the patterns and relationships between quantities or shapes, and operations on either quantities or shapes. Some of these relationships involve natural phenomena, while others deal with abstractions not tied to the physical world.

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 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/M3. Graphs can show a variety of possible relationships between two variables. As one variable increases uniformly, the other may do one of the following: increase or decrease steadily, increase or decrease faster and faster, get closer and closer to some limiting value, reach some intermediate maximum or minimum, alternately increase and decrease, increase or decrease in steps, or do something different from any of these.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 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.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments

Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)

MP.4 Model with mathematics.

Expressions and Equations (6-8)

Reason about and solve one-variable equations and inequalities. (6)
  • 6.EE.6 Use variables to represent numbers and write expressions when solving a real-world or mathematical problem; understand that a variable can represent an unknown number, or, depending on the purpose at hand, any number in a specified set.
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.

Functions (8)

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.

High School — Algebra (9-12)

Creating Equations? (9-12)
  • A-CED.1 Create equations and inequalities in one variable and use them to solve problems. Include equations arising from linear and quadratic functions, and simple rational and exponential functions.
  • A-CED.4 Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations.

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.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.
Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models? (9-12)
  • F-LE.5 Interpret the parameters in a linear or exponential function in terms of a context.
Trigonometric Functions (9-12)
  • F-TF.5 Choose trigonometric functions to model periodic phenomena with specified amplitude, frequency, and midline.?

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: Wave Properties: Frequency, Amplitude, Period, Phase

This student worksheet was developed by a high school teacher for use with the PhET simulation "Wave on a String".  It provides a very thorough road map for students to learn about amplitude and frequency in an interactive environment. It's appropriate for Grade 9 Physical Science or for Conceptual Physics courses. Allow two days. NOTE: This resource is available only to registered PhET users, but registration is free and easy.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
The PhET Project and N. Flowers, (2006), WWW Document, (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3069).
The PhET Project and N. Flowers, PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Investigating Waves (2006), <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3069>.
APA Format
The PhET Project, & Flowers, N. (2008, April 30). PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Investigating Waves. Retrieved June 13, 2024, from https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3069
Chicago Format
The PhET Project, and Nancy Flowers. PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Investigating Waves. April 30, 2008. https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3069 (accessed 13 June 2024).
MLA Format
The PhET Project, and Nancy Flowers. PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Investigating Waves. 2006. 30 Apr. 2008. 13 June 2024 <https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3069>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "The PhET Project and Nancy Flowers", Title = {PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Investigating Waves}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {13 June 2024}, Month = {April 30, 2008}, Year = {2006} }
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%Q The PhET Project %A Nancy Flowers %T PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Investigating Waves %D April 30, 2008 %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3069 %O application/ms-word

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %A The PhET Project, %A Flowers, Nancy %D April 30, 2008 %T PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Investigating Waves %V 2024 %N 13 June 2024 %8 April 30, 2008 %9 application/ms-word %U https://phet.colorado.edu/en/contributions/view/3069

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PhET Teacher Ideas & Activities: Investigating Waves:

Supplements PhET Simulation: Wave on a String

This is a link to the "Wave on a String" simulation, which this worksheet was developed to supplement.

relation by Caroline Hall

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