Some students that are familiar with the idea that sound is a vibration and the common depiction of vibrations as patterns of waves may consider sound as a travelling pattern

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

  • What travels and what doesn't travel?  (5-11 and 11-14)

    Ref - SPT HS02 TL05 and So01 TL06

    Some children have the idea that sound is an entity that itself travels from speaker to ear. This view needs to be countered with the scientific view that sound is not an object but a process – the travelling disturbance of the medium.

    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

  • 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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