Dependent Variable Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Michelle Vannoy
In this lesson, we will learn what a dependent variable is and how to tell which variable in an experiment is the dependent variable. We will also discuss some experiment scenarios to practice identifying the dependent variable.

What is a Dependent Variable?

Did you ever wonder why your mom always tells you to eat your vegetables? Is it just a mean trick that parents play so they can laugh as kids eat things they don't like? Actually, your parents know that you are growing at a very fast rate and your body depends on the vitamins and minerals in vegetables.

This is the same idea behind a dependent variable, which is an element in an experiment that depends on something else. See, in any given experiment, there are three parts:

  1. A control variable is the thing in an experiment that is unchanged and constant.
  2. The independent variable is the variable that is changed on purpose to test the dependent variable.
  3. The dependent variable is the variable that is affected by the changes made to the independent variable.

Just like your body depends on the vitamins in your vegetables, the dependent variable in an experiment depends on the independent variable. If you have a hard time telling the difference between the independent and dependent variables, try writing them in a cause-and-effect sentence. For example, 'Your body's growth (dependent variable) depends on the amount of vitamins and minerals you consume (independent variable).' The sentence won't make sense if you mix up the the two variables!

Example Experiment

Jake wants to determine if the amount of sunlight a plant receives makes a difference in how much it grows. He takes three plants of the same type, puts them in the same type of soil, and gives them the same amount of water. He places one of the plants in the window for 8 hours, another plant in the window for 4 hours, and one in a dark closet. At the end of one month, he measures all three plants and records his data.

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