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written by Tom Henderson and the Nerd Island Studios
This mobile-ready virtual wave machine lets students explore numerous concepts pertaining to wave properties and the motion of particles in transverse and longitudinal waves. It also introduces quantitative relationships among wavelength, frequency, and speed. It would be appropriate for both conceptual and algebra-based physics courses or serve as a refresher for more advanced learners. Users can adjust the frequency, wave speed, and amplitude, then watch as wavelength, period, and speed are displayed simultaneously. Watch it in real time, slow or fast motion. Waves can be displayed as a rope or as sound.

This item is part of The Physics Classroom, a web-based set of tutorials, interactive models, problem sets, and teaching tools for high school physics students and teachers.
Editor's Note: Don't miss the "Teacher's Notes", developed specifically to accompany the Simple Wave Simulator. The author provides links to numerous related resources to support teaching about waves.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Education Practices
- Active Learning
= Modeling
Oscillations & Waves
- Wave Motion
= Longitudinal Pulses and Waves
= Transfer of Energy in Waves
= Transverse Pulses and Waves
= Wave Properties of Sound
- High School
- Middle School
- Lower Undergraduate
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Interactive Simulation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access
Additional information is available.
© 1996 Tom Henderson
frequency, wave energy, wave period, wave properties, wave simulator, wavelength
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created February 18, 2016 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
February 18, 2016 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
December 15, 2015

Next Generation Science Standards

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (MS-PS4)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave. (MS-PS4-1)

Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer (HS-PS4)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
  • Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling in various media. (HS-PS4-1)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds. (9-12)
    • Use a model to predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system. (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
    • Use a computational representation of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations. (9-12)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 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. The Mathematical World

9B. Symbolic Relationships
  • 9-12: 9B/H1b. Sometimes the rate of change of something depends on how much there is of something else (as the rate of change of speed is proportional to the amount of force acting).
  • 9-12: 9B/H5. When a relationship is represented in symbols, numbers can be substituted for all but one of the symbols and the possible value of the remaining symbol computed. Sometimes the relationship may be satisfied by one value, sometimes by more than one, and sometimes not at all.

11. Common Themes

11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M4. Simulations are often useful in modeling events and processes.
  • 6-8: 11B/M5. The usefulness of a model depends on how closely its behavior matches key aspects of what is being modeled. The only way to determine the usefulness of a model is to compare its behavior to the behavior of the real-world object, event, or process being modeled.
  • 9-12: 11B/H1a. A mathematical model uses rules and relationships to describe and predict objects and events in the real world.
  • 9-12: 11B/H2. Computers have greatly improved the power and use of mathematical models by performing computations that are very long, very complicated, or repetitive. Therefore, computers can reveal the consequences of applying complex rules or of changing the rules. The graphic capabilities of computers make them useful in the design and simulated testing of devices and structures and in the simulation of complicated processes.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Wave Energy
Unit Title: Modeling Wave Behavior

Mobile-ready resource lets you explore basic wave properties. View as a transverse or longitudinal wave and adjust the frequency, speed, and amplitude of the wave. Values of wavelength, period, and speed are automatically displayed. Editor's Note: This simulation would be an effective way to help learners see the distinction between particle motion and wave motion, an area of common misunderstanding.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
T. Henderson and Nerd Island Studios, (1996), WWW Document, (https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Physics-Interactives/Waves-and-Sound/Simple-Wave-Simulator).
T. Henderson and Nerd Island Studios, The Physics Classroom: Simple Wave Simulator, (1996), <https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Physics-Interactives/Waves-and-Sound/Simple-Wave-Simulator>.
APA Format
Henderson, T., & Nerd Island Studios. (2015, December 15). The Physics Classroom: Simple Wave Simulator. Retrieved January 23, 2022, from https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Physics-Interactives/Waves-and-Sound/Simple-Wave-Simulator
Chicago Format
Henderson, Tom, and Nerd Island Studios. The Physics Classroom: Simple Wave Simulator. December 15, 2015. https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Physics-Interactives/Waves-and-Sound/Simple-Wave-Simulator (accessed 23 January 2022).
MLA Format
Henderson, Tom, and Nerd Island Studios. The Physics Classroom: Simple Wave Simulator. 1996. 15 Dec. 2015. 23 Jan. 2022 <https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Physics-Interactives/Waves-and-Sound/Simple-Wave-Simulator>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Author = "Tom Henderson and Nerd Island Studios", Title = {The Physics Classroom: Simple Wave Simulator}, Volume = {2022}, Number = {23 January 2022}, Month = {December 15, 2015}, Year = {1996} }
Refer Export Format

%A Tom Henderson %T The Physics Classroom: Simple Wave Simulator %D December 15, 2015 %U https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Physics-Interactives/Waves-and-Sound/Simple-Wave-Simulator %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %A Henderson, Tom %A Nerd Island Studios, %D December 15, 2015 %T The Physics Classroom: Simple Wave Simulator %V 2022 %N 23 January 2022 %8 December 15, 2015 %9 text/html %U https://www.physicsclassroom.com/Physics-Interactives/Waves-and-Sound/Simple-Wave-Simulator

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