Most students struggle to represent sound accurately

Light, Sound and Waves


Some students will avoid using diagrams to represent sounds, some represent sound as a single thing that travels from a source to a receiver e.g. as a single line.

Resources to Address This

  • Light rays but not sound rays (5-11)

    Ref - SPT HS02 TL08

    Sound does not travel in sharply defined beams. Instead it spreads much more as it goes – beams are very hard to maintain.  Don't use the idea of rays when describing sound.

    View Resource
  • Sounds travelling - not just filling (11-14)

    Ref - So01TL07

    Each time you talk about sound, try to emphasise the source–medium–detector model, making it the most natural thing in the world to look for paths along which the sound travels.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Leccia, S., Colantonio, A., Puddu, E., Galano, S. & Testa, I. () Teaching about mechanical waves and sound with a tuning fork and the Sun. Physics Education, 50 (6) IOPP


    Review sheet

  • Eshacha, H. & Schwartzb, J. L. () Sound Stuff? Naïve materialism in middle-school students’ conceptions of sound ". International Journal of Science Education, 28 (7)


    Review sheet

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