Introducing Variables to 5th Grade
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.
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Update: June 2012