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Independent vs Dependent Variables

Ever wondered how scientists figure things out? It all starts with variables, which are basically things that can change in an experiment. Therefore, understanding two main types of variables dependent and independent variable is crucial for both maths and science. Because without this knowledge, analysing experiments and plotting tricky equations on graphs can be like trying to solve a puzzle with missing pieces.

But fear not, this guide is here to make learning about these variables a breeze. We’ll break down what they mean, show you real-life examples in experiments, explain how to graph them like a pro, and even challenge you with a quiz to test your newfound knowledge. Plus, we’ll introduce you to another important variable you need to know about. So, buckle up and get ready to unlock the secrets of variables in maths and science.

What Is A Variable: Defining Both Independent & Dependent Variables 

A variable is like a changeable box in maths and science. It can hold different things, like numbers, words, or even symbols. Moreover, these things are interchangeable depending on what you’re studying or trying to figure out.

Imagine you’re baking cookies. The number of cookies you bake could be a variable because you can choose to bake 10, 20, or even 50! Moreover, another variable could be the baking time, which you might adjust depending on the recipe or your desired crispiness.

Types Of Variables 

There are two types of variables that are part of any experiment, so below are the definitions of both independent variable and dependent variable: 

Independent variable: What the scientist alters or evolves naturally is known as an independent variable.

Dependent variable: What is being measured or analysed goes by the name of the dependent variable.

Independent Variable Definition: 

The Independent Variable: The “Boss” of the Experiment

The independent variable is like the boss in an experiment. It’s the one thing you change to see how it affects something else. Moreover, scientists call it the manipulated variable because they manipulate it. 

Here’s the key: Nothing else in the experiment can change because it acts independently like it’s in charge.

Let’s take an example of an experiment testing different types of music on plant growth. The independent variable is the type of music (rock, classical, etc.). 

The scientist plays different music, but the music itself isn’t affected by the sound it creates or anything else in the experiment. However, it’s the independent “boss” making the changes.

Some common examples of independent variables include:

  • Age: You can’t control someone’s age (it changes on its own!), so it’s an independent variable in many experiments.
  • Time: Time marches on at its own pace, making it an independent variable in experiments that involve measuring duration.

Dependent Variable Meaning 

The dependent variable is like the “result” of the experiment. Moreover. you watch and measure it to see how it changes because of the independent variable.

Imagine you’re baking cookies. The amount of sugar you add (independent variable) is like the boss. However the sweetness of your cookies (dependent variable) is what changes depending on how much sugar you use.

Confused about independent and dependent variables? No worries! Here’s a simple trick to remember them:

  • Independent Variable: YOU are in charge! It’s the thing you change in an experiment. Think of it as the boss giving orders.
  • Dependent Variable: This is the “what happens” part. It’s the thing you measure to see how it changes because of the independent variable (the boss’s orders). Moreover, it depends on what you changed.

Here are some examples to help you remember:

  • Experiment: Testing if plants grow taller with more sunlight.
  • (Boss): Amount of sunlight the plant gets.
  • Dependent Variable (What Happens): Height of the plant.

Some Other Examples: 

  • Experiment: Bouncing different balls to see which bounces highest.
  • Independent Variable (Boss): Type of ball.
  • Dependent Variable (What Happens): Height of the bounce.

The Examples Of Independent And Dependent Variables

Let’s explore some experiments and see how the independent and dependent variables work:

Experiment 1: The Popcorn Popping Powerhouse

Goal: Find the popcorn brand that pops the most kernels (get the most bank for your buck!).

Independent Variable (Boss): The brand of popcorn you choose (you decide!).

Dependent Variable (What Happens): The number of kernels that pop in each brand.

Experiment 2: Fertilising for Fabulous Flowers

Goal: Discover which fertiliser helps plants grow the fastest.

Independent Variable (Boss): The type of fertiliser you give each plant (you choose!).

Dependent Variable (What Happens): The height of each plant.

Experiment 3: Ocean Temperatures and Algae Adventures

Goal: Understand how rising ocean temperatures affect algae.

Independent Variable (Boss): The water temperature in your experiment (you control it).

Dependent Variable (What Happens): The number of algae in the water sample.

Are There Other Variables Too?

We’ve learned about the independent variable (the boss) and the dependent variable (what happens). But there’s another important player in the experiment world: the constant variable (also called a “constant”).

Think of constant variables as the steady crew in an experiment. Moreover, they’re the things you keep the same throughout the entire process, no matter what. This is important because it ensures that any changes in the dependent variable are truly due to the independent variable (the boss) and not anything else.

Here’s an example from our previous experiment:

  • Experiment: Testing different fertilisers on plant growth.
  • Independent Variable (Boss): Type of fertiliser
  • Dependent Variable (What Happens): Plant height

Constant Variables (Steady Crew):

  • Type of plant used
  • Amount of water each plant gets
  • The amount of sunlight each plant receives
  • Size of the container each plant grows in
  • When each plant is watered and fertilised

Moreover, by keeping all these things the same, we can be confident that any changes in plant height are because of the different fertilisers, not other factors.

Why Are Constant Variables Important?

Imagine conducting an experiment without keeping things constant. You might use different types of plants, different watering schedules, and varying sunlight exposure. In this case, it would be impossible to know for sure if the different fertilisers actually caused any changes in plant growth. Or if it was simply due to all the other changing factors.

Characteristics Of Independent And Dependent Variables 

Independent Variable:

IV has the following qualities, which you will assume are the causes of the result you study in your investigation.

Here’s a simpler way to understand the characteristics of an independent variable:

  1. You’re the boss: You, the scientist, get to choose and change the independent variable. Moreover, imagine it like a setting on a machine that you can adjust.


  1. It’s independent: Nothing else in the experiment can affect or change the independent variable. Because, it’s like the setting on your machine stays the way you set it, regardless of other things.


  1. It makes things happen: The independent variable is the cause that influences the dependent variable (the effect). Moreover, it’s like changing the machine setting to see how it affects the outcome.


These three points capture the essence of manipulative, variability, and homogeneity without using technical terms.

Dependent Variable:

The dependent variable is like the “what happens” part of the experiment. Moreover, it’s the thing you measure to see how it changes because of the independent variable (the “boss”). Here’s what makes it unique:


  1. Respond to the boss: The dependent variable reacts to the changes you make in the independent variable (like a plant responding to different types of fertiliser).


  1. Measurable: You can count, record, or observe the dependent variable to see how much it changes.


  1. The outcome: The dependent variable is the final result you’re looking for in the experiment. Moreover, it shows you the effect of the independent variable (the cause).

 Origins Of Variables 

While the specific terms “independent” and “dependent variable” might be relatively new, the ideas behind them have been around for centuries! Moreover, ancient thinkers like Ptolemy and Diophantus used similar concepts to describe relationships between changing and measured values. 

They would, for example, track how the angle of a light ray (independent) changed the angle of refraction (dependent) when passing through different materials.

Even though the language evolved, the core principle remained the same: understanding how one thing we change (independent variable) affects something else we measure (dependent variable). Therefore, while the terms might be recent, the underlying concept has been a valuable tool for scientists and mathematicians for a long time

The Importance Of Independent And Dependent Variables

Imagine you’re baking a cake. You might wonder how long to bake it for the perfect texture (dependent variable). The independent variable is the baking time you choose (the cause). Moreover, by changing the time (independent variable), you observe how the cake turns out (dependent variable, the effect).

This is the power of independent and dependent variables. Moreover, they’re like the question and answer of an experiment. Therefore, we can change the independent variable to see how it affects the dependent variable. Therefore, helps us understand cause and effect in different situations.

Scientists use them to study everything from plant growth (changing fertiliser) to learning (different study methods). Moreover, by understanding how changing one thing (independent variable) affects another (dependent variable), we can make better decisions, solve problems, and learn more about the world around us.

Uses of Independent And Dependent Variables

Let’s get back to our original example of baking cookies. Where, the independent variable is the clue you choose to investigate, like the type of sugar (brown, white, etc.). However, you change this clue (independent variable) to see how it affects the outcome of your cookies, which is the dependent variable. In this case, the dependent variable is the sweetness of your cookies.

Here’s how these detective tools are used:

  1. Uncovering “Why”: By changing the independent variable (clue), scientists can see how it affects the dependent variable (outcome). Therefore, helping them understand why things happen, like why plants grow taller with more sunlight (independent variable) or why studying different ways improves learning (independent variable).


  1. Making Predictions: Once they understand the relationship between the independent and dependent variables, scientists can predict what might happen in different situations. For example, they might predict that using a different fertiliser (independent variable) would affect plant growth (dependent variable) in a specific way.


  1. Solving Problems: Understanding cause and effect (independent and dependent variables) helps us solve problems in everyday life too. However, by trying different things (independent variable), we can see what works best (dependent variable) for us, whether it’s finding the fastest way to get to school or choosing the best study method for a test.


Remember, independent and dependent variables are like partners in an experiment. Moreover, the independent variable (the “boss”) is the one thing you change to see what happens. It’s like the question you ask in an experiment. However, the dependent variable (the “result”) is what you measure to see how it changes because of the independent variable. It’s like the answer you get to your question.

Together, they help us understand cause and effect in different situations. Therefore, we can use them in countless ways, from baking a perfect cake to understanding the world around us. So, next time you see an experiment, remember the independent and dependent variables: they’re the dynamic duo working behind the scenes to help us learn and grow.