About Sound Intensity and the DeciBel Scale

Highly Recommended
Like all our Science Reasoning Center activities, the completion of the Sound Intensity and the DeciBel Scale activity requires that a student use provided information about a phenomenon, experiment, or data presentation to answer questions. This information is accessible by tapping on the small thumbnails found on the bottom right of every question. However, it may be considerably easier to have a printed copy of this information or to display the information in a separate browser window. You can access this information from this page

The Standards
TheSound Intensity and the DeciBel Scale describes the relationship between the intensity of a sound at a given distance from the source and the associated deciBel level. Information is presented in the form of two tables and a graph. Questions target a student's ability to recognize the qualitative and quantitative relationship between variables, to use the relationship to compare various sounds with different intensities or deciBel ratings or at different distances from the same source, and to extrapolate from a table or a graph to predict deciBel ratings or intensities for a given set of conditions.

Success with Sound Intensity and the DeciBel Scale requires some degree of understanding or proficiency with respect to ...

  • Developing and Using Models (Science and Engineering Practice 2.3)
    Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system.
  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (Science and Engineering Practice 5.3)
    Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.
  • Patterns (Crosscutting Concept 1.5)
    Mathematical representations are needed to identify some patterns.
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity (Crosscutting Concept 3.2)
    Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).

While Sound Intensity and the DeciBel Scale activity addresses the two NextGen Science and Engineering Practices and the two Crosscutting Concepts above, the task draws its greatest inspiration from ACT's College Readiness Standards for Science Reasoning. The task consists of 48 questions organized into 14 Question Groups and spread across the three activities. Two of the three strands (Interpretation of Data - IOD and Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results - EMI) of the College Readiness Standards are addressed in this activity. The code given for the standard includes three letters (IOD or EMI) to indicate the strand and three numbers to indicate the specific standard within that strand. Higher numbers are indicative of more complex science reasoning skills. The relationship between the questions and the standards is as follows:


Complementary and Similar Resources
The following resources at The Physics Classroom website complement the Sound Intensity and the DeciBel Scale Science Reasoning Activity. Teachers may find them useful for supporting students and/or as components of lesson plans and unit plans.

Physics Classroom Tutorial, Sound Waves and Music: Intensity and the DeciBel Scale

Concept Builders, Waves and Sound: DeciBel Scale

Minds On Physics, Sound Waves and Music, Mission SM3 - Sound Intensity and DeciBel Levels

The Calculator Pad, Sound Waves: Problem Sets SW6 - SW8