Creating a dichotomous key


Learning Intention: You will understand the purpose of and how to create and use a dichotomous key.

Success Criteria: You will create a key that identifies lollies from a mixed bag, using questions with only two possible answers.

A dichotomous key is a tool used by scientists (especially taxonomists) to identify and name organisms. It uses a series of ‘yes/no’ questions to classify an organism based on the presence or absence of particular features. The questions need to be objective, not subjective, such as “Does it have limbs?”; “Is it symmetrical?” or “Does it have feathers?”. Subjective questions depend on the perspective of the user, such as “Is it big?”; “Is it light in color?” “Does it have lots of legs?” – they are not good questions, because the answer depends on what you are comparing the organism with.

Your task today is to create a dichotomous key to identify a range of lollies. You could use characteristics such as color, shape, melting point, wrapper or symmetry. Remember, each question must have only two possible answers (yes/no or present/absent).

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About brittgow

I am a Science and Maths teacher at a small rural school in western Victoria, Australia. I live on a sheep property with my husband and two children, who also attend Hawkesdale P12 College. I am passionate about education for sustainability, indigenous flora and fauna and love teaching!

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