Scientific Method for Daily Problem Solving

The scientific method is nothing more than a process for discovering answers. While the name refers to “science,” this method of problem solving can be used for any type of problem.

Teaching Tip: Ask kids to provide an example of identifying a problem in their life and how they solved it. For this assignment, I suggest brief descriptions. It can even be in paragraph form.

For Example:

Mom bought me a white shirt to wear to my piano recital. I wanted to make sure it fit, so I put the shirt on. My friend Tom came over to show me his new bicycle. While looking at the cool gears  I got grease on my shirt. Mom was at a business meeting so I couldn’t call her. She expected me to be dressed to go when she got home.

Tom helped me find some grease removing stuff in the wash room.It smelled bad. Tom kept teasing me about the smelly stuff eating a hole in my shirt. He had me worried. But, when the stinky stuff was washed out of the shirt there were no holes, the grease was gone and the shirt smelled OK.

Teaching Tip: The stories can be used to identify the part of the scientific method. Remember that in solving a problem, scientists do not always follow specific steps. It is better for kids to identify process they used in solving a problem than to try to used memorize steps to solve a problem.

For example: Using the example problem above, let’s identify the different processes used to solve the problem.

First, I suggest that the entire story be read, and then answer these questions.

The basic problem is that a stain has to be removed from a shirt.

1. What kind of stain?

2. What kind of material is the shirt made of?

3. What color was the shirt?

Why the shirt was stained is not significant, but that it was grease is.

Mom bought me a white shirt to wear to my piano recital. I wanted to make sure the sleeves were not too long, so I put the shirt on. My friend Tom, came over to show me his new bicycle. While looking at the gears  I got grease on my shirt. Mom was at a PTA meeting so I had to get the grease out so I could wear the shirt when she returned. Tom helped me look for stuff online about cleaning out grease stains. We picked one that mom had the stuff for. We had to mix stuff and it really smelled. I was hoping it didn’t make my shirt smell. Tom kept teasing me about the smelly stuff eating a hole in my shirt. He had me worried. But, when the stinky stuff was washed out of the shirt there were no holes and the grease was gone. Tom and I thought about getting rich selling the stuff.

Observations: You find a dark stain on your favorite shirt. To remove the stain you need to know what caused it. It looks like and smells like the grease you recently put on a door hinge. You also need to know what kind of fabric the shirt is made of. The shirt label tells you that it is 100% cotton.

Problems and Research: How can you remove a grease stain from your cotton shirt? You need information about the removal of grease stains. You search online for suggestions and pick one that seems workable and one that you have the materials for. Since you have never tried this stain removing method before, you are not sure that it will work. Since you need the shirt tomorrow, there is no time to take it to a professional cleaner.

Question: How effective will the stain removing method be in removing grease from cotton?

Hypothesis: Since you have no experience with this stain removing  method, it is pointless for you to make a wild guess. Besides, this is not a school activity. You just want to clean your shirt as quickly as possible. You cross your fingers hoping that the results will be positive. But there may be a mental image of your shirt having a hole instead of a grease stain. YIKES!!! Block those thoughts and collect the necessary cleaning supplies.

Testing: You follow the instructions for mixing the cleaning supplies, and then apply the smelly glob to the stained area on the shirt. Its too late now to change your mind. Only time will tell if you picked the best stain removing method. At least there is no smoke coming from the shirt. YIKES! You want only to have positive thoughts. As if your thoughts can change the results of this experiment. OOPS! The word experiment doesn’t sound positive. OK! It’s time to wash the cleaning glob off the shirt.

Results: Holding your breathe just a little, you wash the stained area. YEA!!! The stain is gone. Really gone. In fact, there is no evidence that the shirt was ever stained.

Conclusion: You would conclude that the stain removing method worked very well in removing the type of grease that stained your cotton shirt.

Applying Information: You should keep the grease method for future use. But, make a note that the stain was grease (identify type if possible) and that the stained material was 100% cotton. OH! I forgot to mention that the color of the shirt is white. UUM! This could be important information because you cannot be sure how the stain removing method will affect colored cotton.



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