The Matching Pairs: Wave Characteristics Concept Builder 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 Concept Builder 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:

For most Physics teachers, the study of the topic of waves eventually involves an analysis of how one wave is different than aother wave. Such comparisons tend to be quantitative in nature and will center around such wave characteristics as frequency, period, wavelength, amplitude and speed. While the concepts seem simply enough to teachers, many students can have considerable difficulty the characteristics organized in their head. And these confusions often prove to be problematic as students attempt to analyze the mathematics of waves with poor conceptual understanding of what the mathematical quantities represent. This Concept Builder addresses the distinction between these five wave characteristics - frequency, period, wavelength, amplitude and speed. The definition, the conceptual significance, the mathematical meaning, the unit, and the symbol are emphasized individually in each of the five activities of the Concept Builder. 

There are five different Matching Pair activities in this Concept Builder. In a Matching Pair activity, students must form matches between pairs of terms based on their meaning or similarity. The five activities are described as follows:
  • Activity 1 - Definitions: Students match the name of a wave quantity to a formal definition of that quantity.
  • Activity 2 - Conceptual Meaning: Students match the name of a wave quantity to a conceptual statement that describes the quantity.
  • Activity 3 - Mathematical Meaning: Students match the name of a wave quantity to a mathematical statement that describes the quantity.
  • Activity 4 - Units: Students match the name of a wave quantity to a unit of expression for that quantity.
  • Activity 5 - Symbols: Students match the name of a wave quantity to the symbol used to represent it.

The terms used in each activity are displayed on a separate page. Teachers are encouraged to do these five activities in order to judge which activities are most appropriate for their classes or to make minor adjustments to their instruction in order to prepare students for a particular aspect of an activity.  

The most valuable (and most overlooked) aspect of this Concept Builder is the Help Me! feature. Each question group is accompanied by a Help page that discusses the specifics of the question. This Help feature transforms the activity from a question-answering activity into a concept-building activity. The student who takes the time to use the Help pages can be transformed from a guesser to a learner and from an unsure student to a confident student. The "meat and potatoes" of the Help pages are in the sections titled "How to Think About This Situation:" Students need to be encouraged by teachers to use the Help Me! button and to read this section of the page. A student that takes time to reflect upon how they are answering the question and how an expert would think about the situation can transform their naivete into expertise. 


Related Resources

There are a few resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Matching Pairs: Wave Characteristics Concept Builder. 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 WM2 and WM3 of the Wave Motion module provide great complements to this Concept Builder. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

    Users may find that the App version of Minds On Physics works best on their devices. The App Version can be found at the Minds On Physics the App section of our website. The Wave Motion module can be found on Part 5 of the six-part App series. Visit Minds On Physics the App.

  • Physics Interactives Simulations
    One of our simulations at the Physics Interactives section makes an incredible complement to this activity. The Simple Wave Simulator animates both transverse and longitudinal waves and provides a means to make adjustments to the frequency, amplitude and speed of the waves. We have a ready-to-use activity that guides students through the simulation with an emphasis on understanding the distinction between particle motion and wave motion. 

    Visit the Simple Wave Simulator.

  • Curriculum/Practice: There is at least one Concept Development worksheet at the Curriculum Corner will be very useful in assisting students in cultivating their understanding, most notably ...

    Describing Waves

    Visit the Curriculum Corner - Wave Basics

Additional resources and ideas for incorporating this Matching Pairs: Wave Characteristics Concept Builder into an instructional unit on Vibrations and Waves can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.