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MATH ANXIETY

 

Create your own Easy Science Experiments.

Looking for easy science experiments, but you still want to get a great grade on your project.

No problem.

You just need to “work smart” instead of “working hard.”

You can get an “A+” for originality, if you create your own experiments instead of copying them from books (or websites).

To do that, you need to understand the three keys to designing easy science experiments-- replication, controls, and variables.

All experiments require replication and controls. The key to creating easy science experiments is choosing your variable.

I know. You’re lazy. (I am too.)

You don’t want to read the rest of this page. (I understand, I don’t want to write it.)

That’s OK.

Read it anyway.

It will only take you five minutes. But if you really understand it, it will save you hours and hours of work later.

Two keys to easy science experiments: Replication and Control

To understand replication and controls, let’s pretend you want to do an experiment on Planaria.

Maybe you want to know, “What happens if you cut a planarium in half?”

Replication

So you order some planaria, petri dishes, and a scalpel.

Being kind hearted, you don’t want to hurt too many planaria, so you take one planarium, and you put it into a petri dish and you cut it in half.

The next day, you come back and the planarium is dead. And you have learned....

....Nothing.

That’s right.... nothing!

Let’s look at just some of the reasons why the planarium might have died.... It could have been....

being cut in half, or....

....poisoned by something in the plastic, or ...

....poisoned by something in the water, or ...

.... too cold, or ...

.... too hot, or ...

.... too old, or ...

.... too young, or ...

.... shocked by the move from the jar to the petri dish, or....

You get the idea.

Now, imagine that you cut ten planaria in half, and they all died.

You still don’t know what killed them, but at least you know you’re dealing with a real phenomenon.

Controls

So you got your jar of planaria, and you cut ten planaria in half. You are now half-way to doing a good experiment.

So let’s say you come back the next day, and they are all dead. What have you learned?

Very little.

You still don’t know that your cuts killed them. They may have died anyway.

How can you be sure that your cuts caused the result you saw?

The answer is amazingly simple...

You already know it....

The key to science is applying this simple idea rigorously.

Just take ten planaria, put them in a petri dish, give them some water, put the petri dish right next to the other petri dish, and DON’T CUT THEM.

Now you have two almost identical groups of planaria. The only difference is that some have been cut and some haven’t been. Now let’s say you come back a few days later and....

In your control group (the ones you didn’t cut) you have ten healthy planaria, and ...

... in your experimental group (the ones you cut) you have 20 healthy planaria.

Now you know something....

You know that “If I cut planaria in half, the two halves will heal and become healthy planaria.”

The one thing you change between your experimental and your control group is called your variable. In this case, your variable is whether or not you cut the planaria.

Variables: The key to creating easy science experiments

You can do experiments with more than one variable, but I wouldn’t.

Let’s say you wanted to ask, “How do darkness and the sharpness of scalpels affect planaria regeneration?”

You would need the following:

  • Three control planaria in the light.
  • Three control planaria in the dark.
  • Three planaria cut with a sharp scalpel and kept in the light.
  • Three planaria cut with a dull scalpel and kept in the light.
  • Three planaria cut with a sharp scalpel and kept in the dark.
  • Three planaria cut with a dull scalpel and kept in the dark.

And we haven’t even started to discuss the issue of graphing and analyzing your data.

So my advice to you is:

“Choose one variable, and do one experiment on that one variable.”

If you decide to do an experiment with more than one variable, it won't be easy.

Discrete and Continuous variables

In the sample experiment, we used a discrete variable. A discrete variable exists in two (or more) easily recognized states.

The planaria are

  • cut, or
  • not cut.

Easy science experiments use discrete variables.

A continuous variable like temperature doesn’t exist in just two states. You can not say water is “hot” or “cold.” If you are using temperature as a variable, you might do the experiment at 10C, 15C, 20C, 25C, and 30C. (And remember, you would need to have at least three trials at each temperature.)

There are lots of continuous variables, examples are age, height, weight, color, speed, pH, etc.

You can design experiments with continuous variables, but if you looking for easy science experiments, look for a discrete variable.

Don’t even think of working with two (or more) continuous variables. (At least, not until graduate school.)

So, how can you create easy science experiments that will get A-plusses?

  • Brainstorm original topics
  • Look over the list, and circle the ones that are interesting, that might get a teacher or judge’s attention.
  • Cross out any that use more than one variable or use a continuous variable, or figure out a way to make the experiment easier.

If you don’t have any good ideas left....

Brainstorm some more.

Here is an easy science fair project using Alka Seltzer.

Return from Easy Science Experiments to Science Fair Project Ideas

Return from Easy Science Experiments to What is science?


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