Students learn about the types of waves and how they change direction, as well as basic wave properties such as wavelength, frequency, amplitude and speed. During the presentation of lecture information on wave characteristics and properties, students take notes using a handout. Then they label wave parts on a worksheet diagram and draw their own waves with specified properties (crest, trough and wavelength). They also make observations about the waves they drew to determine which has the highest and the lowest frequency. With this knowledge, students better understand waves and are a step closer to understanding how humans see color.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
- 2. Fluently divide multi-digit numbers using the standard algorithm. (Grade 6)  ...show
- 3. Fluently add, subtract, multiply, and divide multi-digit decimals using the standard algorithm for each operation. (Grade 6)  ...show
- 4. Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations. For example, rearrange Ohm's law V = IR to highlight resistance R. (Grades 9 - 12)  ...show
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- Standard 10. Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving. (Grades 0 - 12)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- 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. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- South Carolina: Science
- The student will demonstrate an understanding of the properties and behaviors of waves. (Grade 8)  ...show
- Waves (including sound and seismic waves, waves on water, and light waves) have energy and transfer energy when they interact with matter. Waves are a repeating pattern of motion that transfers energy from place to place without overall displacement of matter. All types of waves have some features in common. When waves interact, they superimpose upon or interfere with each other resulting in changes to the amplitude. Major modern technologies are based on waves and their interactions with matter. (Grade 8)  ...show
- Analyze and interpret data to describe the behavior of waves (including refraction, reflection, transmission, and absorption) as they interact with various materials. (Grade 8)  ...show
- Analyze and interpret data to describe the behavior of mechanical waves as they intersect. (Grade 8)  ...show
- Explain that waves transfer energy, not matter.
- Distinguish between mechanical and electromagnetic waves.
- Summarize the major properties and behavior of waves, including (but not limited to) wavelength, frequency, amplitude, speed, refraction, reflection and diffraction.
Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers
Waves and Wave Properties
- Transverse waves: Waves in which the medium moves at right angles to the direction of the wave. Think about a "stadium wave:" the people are moving up and down, but the wave is going around the stadium. Parts of transverse waves:
- Crest: the highest point of the wave
- Trough: the lowest point of the wave
- Compressional (longitudinal) waves: Waves in which the medium moves back and forth in the same direction as the wave. Parts of compressional waves:
- Compression: where the particles are close together
- Rarefaction: where the particles are spread apart
- Wavelength: The distance between one point on a wave and the exact same place on the next wave.
- Frequency: How many waves go past a point in one second. The unit of measurement is hertz (Hz). The higher the frequency, the more energy in the wave.
- If 10 waves go past in 1 second, it is 10 Hz
- If 1,000 waves go past in 1 second, it is 1,000Hz
- If 1,000,000 waves go past, it is 1,000,000 Hz
- Amplitude: How far the medium (crests and troughs, or compressions and rarefactions) moves from rest position (the place the medium is when not moving). The more energy a wave carries, the larger its amplitude.
- The energy of a wave can be expressed by the equation E = CA2, where E is energy, C is a constant dependent upon the medium, and A is the amplitude.
- Wave speed: Depends on the medium in which the wave is traveling. It varies in solids, liquids and gases. A mathematical way to calculate wave speed is: wave speed = wavelength (in m) x frequency (in Hz). Or, v = f x λ. So, if a wave has a wavelength of 2 m and a frequency of 500 Hz, what is its speed? (Answer: wave speed = 2 m x 500Hz = 1000 m/s)
Changing Wave Direction
- Reflection: When waves bounce off a surface. If the surface is flat, the angle at which the wave hits the surface will be the same as the angle that the wave leaves the surface. In other words, the angle in equals the angle out. This is the law of reflection. (For example, when a pool ball strikes the side of a pool table, the angle at which it hits the bumper is the same angle at which it bounces off the bumper.)
- Refraction: Waves can bend. This happens when a wave enters a new medium and its speed changes. The amount of bending depends on the medium it is entering. (optional: To explain this phenomenon in more detail, search the Internet to find an interactive tutorial that shows light being bent as it travels through a medium.)
- Diffraction: The bending of waves around an object. The amount of bending depends on the size of the obstacle and the size of the waves. (optional: To explain this phenomenon in more detail, search the Internet to find an interactive tutorial that shows the diffraction of monochromatic light through slits of varying widths.)
- Large obstacle, small wavelength = low diffraction (bending)
- Small obstacle, large wavelength = large diffraction (bending)
|How far the medium (crests and troughs, or compressions and rarefactions) moves from rest position (the place the medium is when not moving).|
|When the particles of a longitudinal wave are close together.|
|A wave in which the medium moves back and forth in the same direction as the wave.|
|The highest point on a transverse wave.|
|The bending of waves around an object.|
|A wave that does not require a medium to travel, for example, it can travel through a vacuum. Also called an EM wave.|
|The capacity to do work.|
|How many waves go past a point in one second. Measured in hertz (Hz).|
|A wave that requires a medium to travel.|
|When the particles of a longitudinal wave are far apart.|
|When a wave bounces off a surface.|
|When a wave bends.|
|A wave in which the medium moves at right angles to the direction of the wave.|
|The lowest point on a transverse wave.|
|A disturbance that carries energy from one place to another.|
|Distance between one point on a wave and the exact same place on the next wave.|
- Waves and Wave Properties Presentation (ppt)
- Waves and Wave Properties Presentation (pdf)
- All About Waves—Notes Outline (docx)
- All About Waves—Notes Outline (pdf)
- All About Waves—Notes Outline Answers (docx)
- All About Waves—Notes Outline Answers (pdf)
- Anatomy of a Wave Worksheet (doc)
- Anatomy of a Wave Worksheet (pdf)
- Anatomy of a Wave Worksheet Answers (doc)
- Anatomy of a Wave Worksheet Answers (pdf)
Davidson, Michael W. Diffraction of Light, Physics of Light and Color, Optical Microscopy Primer. Last modified June 15, 2006. Florida State University and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Optical Microscopy, Molecular Expressions. Accessed February 7, 2012. http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/diffraction/basicdiffraction/index.html
Davidson, Michael W. Particle and Wave Refraction, Physics of Light and Color, Optical Microscopy Primer. Last modified June 15, 2006. Florida State University and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Optical Microscopy, Molecular Expressions. Accessed February 7, 2012. http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/primer/java/particleorwave/refraction/index.html
Lewis, Susan K. Anatomy of a Tsunami. Posted March 29, 2005. Nova beta, PBS Online by WGBH. Accessed February 7, 2012. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tsunami/anatomy.html
Sound & Light: Chapter 1, Section 2 Properties of Waves. Quia, IXL Learning. Accessed February 7, 2012. http://www.quia.com/rr/221617.html
Ellen Zielinski, Courtney Faber, Marissa H. Forbes
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2010 Clemson University
Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program, Center of Advancement of Engineering Fibers and Films, Clemson University
Last modified: February 9, 2016