The Simple Wave Simulator Interactive is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Interactive can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.

Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

This Interactive could be suitably used at just about any stage of a learning cycle on waves and sound. Numerous wave concepts are illustrated in the Interactive. For instance, the difference between wave motion and the motion of the particles of the medium are clearly illustrated. There are three red particles that are located along the medium. When a transverse wave travels through the rope, the particles of the rope vibrate about a fixed position while the disturbance travels from one end of the medium to the other. Even when viewing the simulation as a sound wave, the particles of the medium are seen to simply vibrated back and forth about a fixed position. Learners will clearly see the distinction between particle motion and wave motion - whether for mechanical waves such as those moving through a rope or for longitudinal waves such as a sound wave. Additionally, the simulation can be used to demonstrate numerous mathematical relationships such as the speed-wavelength-frequency relationships

The Physics Classroom has prepared an activity titled Exploring Waves for use with this Interactive. The Exploring Waves activity allows users to explore the following concepts:
  • the distinction between wave motion and particle motion
  • the nature of a transverse wave and a longitudinal wave
  • the meaning of frequency, amplitude, wavelength ad speed
  • the effect (and non-effect) of varying frequency upon wavelength and speed
  • the independence of amplitude and wave speed
The activity ends with a multiple-choice style assessment section that highlights the key points in the activity.

Our Simple Wave Simulator is now available with a Concept Checker. Do the simulation. Then follow it up with the Concept Checker.


Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Simple Wave Simulator Interactive. These include:
  • Minds On Physics Internet Modules:
    The Minds On Physics Internet Modules include a collection of interactive questioning modules that help learners assess their understanding of physics concepts and solidify those understandings by answering questions that require higher-order thinking. Assignments WM1, WM2, and WM3 of the Wave Motion module and assignments SM1 and SM2 of the Sound and Music module provide great complements to this Interactive. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

  • Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding, most notably ...

    Describing Waves
    Wave Speed
    The Nature of Sound Waves
    The Properties of Sound Waves

  • Labwork: 
    Simulations should always support (never supplant) hands-on learning. The Laboratory section of The Physics Classroom website includes several hands-on ideas that complement this Interactive. Three notable lab ideas include ...

    A Wiggle in Time
    A Wiggle in Time and Space
    Wave Motion

    Visit The Laboratory.
  • Science Reasoning Activities:
    Science classrooms should be filled with reasoning activities. There is two related activities in the Waves section and the Sound section of the Science Reasoning Center that will challenge students to employ close reading, data analysis, and logical reasoning. The activities are named ...

    Standing Waves on a Rope
    The Sound of Music

    Visit the Science Reasoning Center.

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating Simple Wave Simulator into an instructional unit on waves and sound can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.


The Physics Classroom would like to extend a special thanks to Nerd Island Studios for the creation of this HTML5 Interactive. Visit to see more great stuff by Nerd Island Studios.

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