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written by the The PhET Project and Jackie Esler
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.

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 Flash.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Modeling
Oscillations & Waves
- Oscillations
= Simple Harmonic Motion
= Springs and Oscillators
- Wave Motion
= Longitudinal Pulses and Waves
= Transverse Pulses and Waves
- Middle School
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Best practice
= Instructor Guide/Manual
= Interactive Simulation
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Student Guide
Intended Users Formats Ratings
- Educators
- Learners
- General Publics
- text/html
- application/flash
- application/pdf
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Safety Warnings
Minimal Danger   No Safety Equipment Necessary  

Access Rights:
Free access
© 2011 The PhET Project
PHET, Phet, amplitude, clicker questions, frequency, labs, lesson plans, wave addition, wave period, wave reflection, wave simulator, wave superposition, wavelength
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created April 19, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 18, 2016 by Lyle Barbato
Last Update
when Cataloged:
July 25, 2011
Other Collections:

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

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/M2. Rates of change can be computed from differences in magnitudes and vice versa.
9C. Shapes
  • 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

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.

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.

Functions (8)

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.
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The PhET Project and J. Esler, (2011), WWW Document, (
The PhET Project and J. Esler, PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave, (2011), <>.
APA Format
The PhET Project, & Esler, J. (2011, July 25). PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave. Retrieved June 26, 2022, from
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The PhET Project, and Jackie Esler. PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave. July 25, 2011. (accessed 26 June 2022).
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The PhET Project, and Jackie Esler. PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave. 2011. 25 July 2011. 26 June 2022 <>.
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@misc{ Author = "The PhET Project and Jackie Esler", Title = {PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave}, Volume = {2022}, Number = {26 June 2022}, Month = {July 25, 2011}, Year = {2011} }
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%Q The PhET Project %A Jackie Esler %T PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave %D July 25, 2011 %U %O text/html

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%0 Electronic Source %A The PhET Project, %A Esler, Jackie %D July 25, 2011 %T PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave %V 2022 %N 26 June 2022 %8 July 25, 2011 %9 text/html %U

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PhET Teacher Activities: Properties of a Wave:

Requires PhET Simulation: Wave on a String

A link to the PhET simulation Wave on a String, which must be running in order to complete this activity.

relation by Caroline Hall

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