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Variables in Science Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:03 Think Like a Scientist
  • 1:01 Types of Variables
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Did you know science has its own language? Variables play a very important role in scientific experiments. In this lesson, learn what variables are, the different types of variables, and how they interact.

Think Like a Scientist

Which flavor of ice cream will melt fastest: chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry? To answer this question, you have to think like a scientist and set up an experiment. What would the experiment look like? You could place one scoop of each ice cream flavor in a glass bowl and, using a stopwatch or timer, record how long it takes each scoop to melt.

This experiment has a few variables, or characteristics or conditions, that can exist in different amounts or kinds. For example, characteristics like a person's eye color or hair color come in different kinds, so these could be variables. The temperature outside or in a room is a condition that varies, so it too could be a variable. It is easy to remember what variables are because the beginning of the word 'variable' sounds like the word 'vary,' which means to change!

Types of Variables

There are three main types of variables: independent, dependent, and controlled. Let's learn about each one.

Independent Variables

The independent variable is the factor that the scientist changes. What was different about the ice cream in our experiment? The flavor. You, the scientist, changed which flavor was put in each bowl.

Independent variables stand alone because they are not influenced, or changed, by anything else in an experiment.

Dependent Variables

The dependent variable is what is being measured in an experiment. It's called 'dependent' because it depends on the independent variable.

In our experiment, we measured how long it took each scoop of ice cream to melt. In this experiment, the time it takes a scoop to melt is dependent on the flavor of the ice cream.

Controlled Variables

In an experiment, the only thing that should be changing is the independent variable. All other variables have to be the same. Controlled variables are all the other variables that a scientist must make sure are the same throughout the entire experiment.

Our experiment was all about different ice cream flavors - our independent variable. We wanted to know how the flavors affected the melting time. So, other than the experimenter changing the flavors, everything else must stay constant.

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