The Particle Wave 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:

The Particle Wave simulation models a transverse wave moving through a medium by the oscillation of 60 connected and coordinated particles undergoing simple harmonic motion. Students have difficulty distinguishing between particle motion and wave motion. in this simulation, each particle vibrates up and down about its rest position as the wave passes through it. Both the motion of the wave pattern across the screen and the up-and-down particle motion are clearly evident, allowing the student to distinguish between these two motions. 

Students can alter three properties of the wave - the wavelength, amplitude, and speed. Changes occur in real-time, allowing students to perceive the meaning of each variable. Detectors are placed upon three particles. The detectors detect the kinetic and potential (elastic) energies of the three particles and plot them on a bar chart. The number of cycles during a given period of time can be measured and the frequency can be calculated. The detectors can be moved to any particle desired. 

We believe that the simulation will work best during student's early experiences with waves.

The Physics Classroom has prepared a student activity sheet for use with this simulation. The activity sheet focuses on four concepts:
  • Wave motion vs. particle motion
  • The meaning of wavelength, frequency, amplitude, and speed
  • The wavelength-frequency-speed relationship
  • Energy and energy transport
The activity sheet is available in PDF format.

The Particle Wave 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 Particle Wave Interactive. These include:
  • 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 two:


    Describing Waves
  • Concept Builders: a Concept Builder is a questioning module that targets student understanding of one or more discrete learning objectives. Students are presented questions that promote conceptual reasoning. Here are two Concept Builders that would coordinate well with The Particle Wave simulation.

    Wave Basics

    Matching Pairs: Wave Characteristics


Additional resources and ideas for incorporating The Particle Wave 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.