Many students, even some that understand that sound is the result of vibrations, struggle to explain the effect of covering an object which is making sound

Light, Sound and Waves


Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to Address This

  • A noisy alarm clock (5-11)

    Ref - SPT HS02 TA12

    Children think about the path which the vibrations must follow from source to detector in order for this sound to be heard. To make this goal orientated, and to allow for little lateral thinking, we suggest sketching two scenarios in which the path is able to transmit more of vibrations from the source and in which the path is able to translate less of the vibrations from the source.

    View Resource
  • Sounds getting softer (11-14)

    Ref - SPT So01 TL08

    ---- some of the sound may be absorbed by the stuff through which it travels. In this case not all of the vibration of one block of particles is passed onto the next – some of the energy gets spread around, resulting in a disordered jiggling, rather than in the organised vibration of the sound. Materials and structures that do this particularly well are good sound insulators – good at insulating source from detector.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Sözen, M. & Bolat, M. () Determining the misconceptions of primary school students related to sound transmission through drawing Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 15



    Review sheet

  • Hrepic, Z., Zollman, D. and Rebello, N.S. () Identifying students’ mental models of sound propagation: The role of conceptual blending in understanding conceptual change Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research 6 020114

    Review sheet

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