What is an experiment?


My husband and elder daughter have annual membership at the local science museum. Every couple of months, they go there for some quality daddy-daughter time and a few hours of fun doing experiments and testing out new exhibits.

But what is an experiment? And why do scientists use experiments in their work?

Well, an experiment is a practical way of finding out the answer to a question. It’s a way of testing your ideas and can be a way of discovering something new.

But before you can do an experiment, you need to think of something that you want to know the answer to and a way of testing to see if you are right or wrong.

For example, my 6-year-old and I like to play snakes and ladders. And we have a rule that says ‘if you roll a six on the dice, you get to move six spaces and roll the dice again’. So rolling a six is a good thing because it gives you a bonus turn.

Once, my daughter got upset because she thought I was rolling too many sixes. So we did an experiment to see how many times we could roll each of the numbers on the dice. We rolled the dice sixty times and wrote down which number was on the top after each roll.

A dice has six numbers, and each number should have the same chance of ending up on top. So we expected that we would roll each number ten times. But here are our results:

  • we rolled a ‘1’ six times
  • we rolled a ‘2’ eleven times
  • we rolled a ‘3’ ten times
  • we rolled a ‘4’ thirteen times
  • we rolled a ‘5’ fourteen times
  • we rolled a ‘6’ six times

We were a bit surprised because we didn’t roll very many ones or sixes, but the results certainly show that we weren’t more likely to roll a six than any other number.

What results do you think you would get if you repeated this experiment? And what do you think our results mean for our next game of snakes and ladders?

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