The Standards

High School

Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

Students who demonstrate understanding can:




Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling in various media. HS-PS4-1

Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

Clarification Statement: Examples of data could include electromagnetic radiation traveling in a vacuum and glass, sound waves traveling through air and water, and seismic waves traveling through the Earth.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to algebraic relationships and describing those relationships qualitatively.


Evaluate questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission and storage of information. HS-PS4-2

Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

Clarification Statement: Examples of advantages could include that digital information is stable because it can be stored reliably in computer memory, transferred easily, and copied and shared rapidly. Disadvantages could include issues of easy deletion, security, and theft.

Assessment Boundary: none


Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind behind the idea that electromagnetic radiation can be described either by a wave model or a particle model, and that for some situations one model is more useful than the other. HS-PS4-3

Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how the experimental evidence supports the claim and how a theory is generally modified in light of new evidence. Examples of a phenomenon could include resonance, interference, diffraction, and photoelectric effect.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include using quantum theory.


Evaluate the validity and reliability of claims in published materials of the effects that different frequencies of electromagnetic radiation have when absorbed by matter. HS-PS4-4

Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the idea that photons associated with different frequencies of light have different energies, and the damage to living tissue from electromagnetic radiation depends on the energy of the radiation. Examples of published materials could include trade books, magazines, web resources, videos, and other passages that may reflect bias.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to qualitative descriptions.


Communicate technical information about about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy. HS-PS4-5

Clarification Statement and Assessment Boundary

Clarification Statement: Examples could include solar cells capturing light and converting it to electricity; medical imaging; and communications technology.

Assessment Boundary: Assessments are limited to qualitative information. Assessments do not include band theory.

Science and Engineering Practices

Asking Questions and Defining Problems

Asking questions and defining problems in 9–12 builds on grades K–8 experiences and progresses to formulating, refining, and evaluating empirically testable questions and design problems using models and simulations.

Evaluate questions that challenge the premise(s) of an argument, the interpretation of a data set, or the suitability of a design. (HS-PS4-2)

Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Mathematical and computational thinking in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions.

Use mathematical representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations. (HS-PS4-1)

Engaging in Argument from Evidence

Engaging in argument from evidence in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to using appropriate and sufficient evidence and scientific reasoning to defend and critique claims and explanations about the natural and designed world(s). Arguments may also come from current scientific or historical episodes in science.

Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments. (HS-PS4-3)

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to evaluating the validity and reliability of the claims, methods, and designs.

Evaluate the validity and reliability of multiple claims that appear in scientific and technical texts or media reports, verifying the data when possible. (HS-PS4-4)

Communicate technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (including orally, graphically, textually, and mathematically). (HS-PS4-5)

Disciplinary Core Ideas

PS3.DEnergy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life

Solar cells are human-made devices that likewise capture the sun’s energy and produce electrical energy. (HS-PS4-5)

PS4.AWave Properties

The wavelength and frequency of a wave are related to one another by the speed of travel of the wave, which depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing. (HS-PS4-1)

Information can be digitized (e.g., a picture stored as the values of an array of pixels); in this form, it can be stored reliably in computer memory and sent over long distances as a series of wave pulses. (HS-PS4-2), (HS-PS4-5)

[From the 3–5 grade band endpoints] Waves can add or cancel one another as they cross, depending on their relative phase (i.e., relative position of peaks and troughs of the waves), but they emerge unaffected by each other. (Boundary: The discussion at this grade level is qualitative only; it can be based on the fact that two different sounds can pass a location in different directions without getting mixed up.) (HS-PS4-3)

PS4.BElectromagnetic Radiation

Electromagnetic radiation (e.g., radio, microwaves, light) can be modeled as a wave of changing electric and magnetic fields or as particles called photons. The wave model is useful for explaining many features of electromagnetic radiation, and the particle model explains other features. (HS-PS4-3)

When light or longer wavelength electromagnetic radiation is absorbed in matter, it is generally converted into thermal energy (heat). Shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation (ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays) can ionize atoms and cause damage to living cells. (HS-PS4-4)

Photoelectric materials emit electrons when they absorb light of a high-enough frequency. (HS-PS4-5)

PS4.CInformation Technologies and Instrumentation

Multiple technologies based on the understanding of waves and their interactions with matter are part of everyday experiences in the modern world (e.g., medical imaging, communications, scanners) and in scientific research. They are essential tools for producing, transmitting, and capturing signals and for storing and interpreting the information contained in them. (HS-PS4-5)

Common Core State Standards Connections

  • RST.11-12.1 - Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to important distinctions the author makes and to any gaps or inconsistencies in the account. (HS-PS4-2), (HS-PS4-3), (HS-PS4-4)
  • RST.11-12.7 - Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., quantitative data, video, multimedia) in order to address a question or solve a problem. (HS-PS4-1), (HS-PS4-4)
  • RST.11-12.8 - Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information. (HS-PS4-2), (HS-PS4-3), (HS-PS4-4)
  • RST.9-10.8 - Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claim or a recommendation for solving a scientific or technical problem. (HS-PS4-2), (HS-PS4-3), (HS-PS4-4)
  • WHST.11-12.8 - Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the specific task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation. (HS-PS4-4)
  • WHST.9-12.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes. (HS-PS4-5)
  • HSA-CED.A.4 - Rearrange formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations. (HS-PS4-1), (HS-PS4-3)
  • HSA-SSE.A.1 - Interpret expressions that represent a quantity in terms of its context. (HS-PS4-1), (HS-PS4-3)
  • HSA-SSE.B.3 - Choose and produce an equivalent form of an expression to reveal and explain properties of the quantity represented by the expression.★ (HS-PS4-1), (HS-PS4-3)
  • MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (HS-PS4-1), (HS-PS4-3)
  • MP.4 - Model with mathematics. (HS-PS4-1)

Model Course Mapping

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