Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Introducing Variables to 5th Grade
Name: Connie
Status: educator
Grade: 6-8
Location: LA
Country: N/A
Date: August 2006

What is a simple way to introduce a variable to students in a Science experiment.(5th grade)

A very good and important question. The best approach that I have found was introduced by Richard Feynman. It can be found in a number of references: first published in "Engineering and Science" Vol. 28 (6) March 1965, also reprinted as Appendix "V" in his book: "Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track". His method was in response to California State Curriculum Commission's "New Textbooks for the 'New' Mathematics". Like so many topics he addressed in his career, it is the epitome of clarity and directness.

He coined it "the 'guess' method." It is too long to lay out here, but is certainly worth your time as an educator of young children to develop lesson plans around his approach.

His principles are: 1. There must be freedom of thought. 2. We do not want to teach just words. 3. The subject should not be introduced without explaining the purpose or reason and supply a reason why it is worth learning.

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the General Topics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory