The Boundary Behavior of Waves 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 short little simulation will make a great follow-up to a demonstration or lab experience on the topic of the behavior of waves at a boundary. Having had the experience viewing a pulse moving through a Slinky, rope, or wave machine towards and fixed boundary, a free boundary, or across a boundary into another medium will make the simulation more meaningulf. And being able to use the simulation as a follow-up to such a hands-on experience will likely make that experience more meaningful.

The intent of the simulation is to systematically lead students to an understanding of how an incident wave (or pulse) behaves when it reaches the boundary with a second medium. The simulation consists of four investigations that lead a student to this understanding. In the first investigation, they compare pulse speeds in a very dense medium to pulse speeds in a much less dense medium in order to gain an understanding of how the density of the medium affects the wave speed. The second and third investigations involve observing how a pulse reflects at the end of a medium - both fixed (second investigation) and free (third investigation). In the last investigation, students observe an incident pulse approaching the boundary with a second medium and being both reflected off it and transmitted into it. The density of the two medium can be changed so that they can observe the behavior when the incident pulse is in the more dense and in the less dense medium. They will be able to observe difference in the phase (inverted vs. upright), the amplitude, the speed, and the wavelength between the incident pulse and the transmitted and the reflected pulse.

The Physics Classroom has prepared an activity for this Interactive.  The activity is intended to be used by teachers with their classes. View

Our Boundary Behavior of Waves simulation 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 Boundary Behavior of Waves Interactive. These include:
  • Reading:
    Lesson 3 of the Waves Chapter of the Tutorial is a perfect accompaniment to this Interactive. The following page will be particularly useful in the early stages of the learning cycle on wave behavior:

    Boundary Behavior of Waves
  • Curriculum/Practice: Several Concept Development worksheets at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding of wave behavior. We recommend the following:

    Boundary Behavior


  • 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 ...

    Lab W9: Wave Behavior Demonstration Lab

    A Teacher Guide can be found here: Teacher Guide to Lab W9
Additional resources and ideas for incorporating the Boundary Behavior of Waves Interactive into an instructional unit on vibrations and waves can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.

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