Electromagnetic Radiation
Quantum and Nuclear | Light, Sound and Waves

Taking care with technical terms - frequency

Teaching Guidance for 14-16 Supporting Physics Teaching

Being precise when talking about frequency

Wrong Track: The frequency of a sound is how quickly it vibrates.

Right Lines: The frequency of a sound is measured in terms of the number of complete oscillations per second or hertz.

Encouraging precision when talking about waves

Thinking about the learning

When students are first introduced to these terms, there is a tendency for them to use the terms in a less than precise way.

Sound and light belong to different families of radiation and the members of those families are specified in terms of their velocity, frequency and amplitude.

Thinking about the teaching

It's worth making a fuss about getting definitions such as these correct.

We'd suggest encouraging students to take pride in being precise:

Teacher: Frequency! What do we mean by frequency? Remind us, Lucas!

Lucas: Errr, the number of complete oscillations made by any point on the wave each second.

Teacher: Perfect! Music to my ears! Well done, Lucas!

Electromagnetic Radiation
can be represented by The Electromagnetic Spectrum
has the special case Visible Light
is used in analyses relating to X-Ray Scanning
features in Medical Physics

Disable node explorer

2023 IOP Awards

Teachers of Physics Awards

Recognising and celebrating outstanding contributions to the field of physics education.

Learn more