SC.7.N.3.1

Recognize and explain the difference between theories and laws and give several examples of scientific theories and the evidence that supports them.
General Information
Subject Area: Science
Grade: 7
Body of Knowledge: Nature of Science
Idea: Level 3: Strategic Thinking & Complex Reasoning
Big Idea: The Role of Theories, Laws, Hypotheses, and Models - The terms that describe examples of scientific knowledge, for example; "theory," "law," "hypothesis," and "model" have very specific meanings and functions within science.
Date Adopted or Revised: 02/08
Date of Last Rating: 05/08
Status: State Board Approved
Assessed: Yes
Test Item Specifications
  • Item Type(s): This benchmark may be assessed using: MC item(s)
  • Also Assesses
    SC.6.N.3.1
    Recognize and explain that a scientific theory is a well-supported and widely accepted explanation of nature and is not simply a claim posed by an individual. Thus, the use of the term theory in science is very different than how it is used in everyday life.

    SC.8.N.3.2 discarded. Explain why theories may be modified but are rarel

  • Clarification :
    Students will explain the difference between theories and laws.

    Students will identify examples of theories and/or laws.

    Students will explain why theories may be modified but are rarely discarded.
  • Content Limits :
    Items addressing scientific theories and/or laws are limited to those found in the middle school science benchmarks, such as law of universal gravitation, law of superposition, theory of plate tectonics, atomic theory, law of conservation of mass, law of conservation of energy, cell theory, and the scientific theory of evolution.
  • Stimulus Attributes :
    None specified
  • Response Attributes :
    None specified
  • Prior Knowledge :
    Items may require the student to apply science knowledge described in the NGSSS from lower grades. This benchmark requires prerequisite knowledge from SC.6.N.3.2 and SC.6.N.3.3.
Sample Test Items (1)
  • Test Item #: Sample Item 1
  • Question: A timeline of some models of atoms throughout history is shown below. These models have contributed to the formation of the atomic theory.
    Which statement best summarizes the development of the atomic theory over time?
  • Difficulty: N/A
  • Type: MC: Multiple Choice

Related Courses

This benchmark is part of these courses.
2002070: M/J Comprehensive Science 2 (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2002080: M/J Comprehensive Science 2, Advanced (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2001010: M/J Earth/Space Science (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2001020: M/J Earth/Space Science, Advanced (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2000010: M/J Life Science (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2000020: M/J Life Science, Advanced (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2003010: M/J Physical Science (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2003020: M/J Physical Science, Advanced (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
7820016: Access M/J Comprehensive Science 2 (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2018, 2018 and beyond (current))
2002085: M/J Comprehensive Science 2 Accelerated Honors (Specifically in versions: 2014 - 2015, 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2003030: M/J STEM Physical Science (Specifically in versions: 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2002200: M/J STEM Environmental Science (Specifically in versions: 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2001025: M/J STEM Astronomy and Space Science (Specifically in versions: 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))
2000025: M/J STEM Life Science (Specifically in versions: 2015 - 2022, 2022 and beyond (current))

Related Access Points

Alternate version of this benchmark for students with significant cognitive disabilities.
SC.7.N.3.In.1: Identify that scientific theories are explanations and laws describe relationships, and both are supported by evidence.
SC.7.N.3.Su.1: Recognize that scientific theories and laws are supported by evidence.
SC.7.N.3.Pa.1: Recognize that people use science to solve problems.

Related Resources

Vetted resources educators can use to teach the concepts and skills in this benchmark.

Lesson Plans

Theories and Laws: Analyzing Evidence:

Students will begin by differentiating between scientific theories and laws. They will then analyze evidence provided to them to determine what evidence supports their assigned theory and what evidence is not relevant. Students will present their findings to the class.

Type: Lesson Plan

Cricket Songs:

Using a guided-inquiry model, students in a math or science class will use an experiment testing the effect of temperature on cricket chirping frequency to teach the concepts of representative vs random sampling, identifying directly proportional relationships, and highlight the differences between scientific theory and scientific law.

Type: Lesson Plan

Scientific Theories and Scientific Laws:

This lesson compares and contrasts scientific theories and laws, addressing misconceptions associated with them.

Type: Lesson Plan

Original Student Tutorial

The Main Event: Scientific Theories vs. Scientific Laws:

Learn to recognize and explain the difference between scientific theories and scientific laws in this interactive tutorial. You'll also explore several examples of scientific theories and the evidence that supports them.

Type: Original Student Tutorial

Professional Development

Ideas in Science: Theories, Hypotheses, and Laws:

This resource explains the difference between scientific theories, hypotheses, and laws.

  • A scientific theory is an explanation inferred from multiple lines of evidence for some broad aspect of the natural world and is logical, testable, and predictive.
  • As new evidence comes to light, or new interpretations of existing data are proposed, theories may be revised and even change; however, they are not tenuous or speculative.
  • A scientific hypothesis is an inferred explanation of an observation or research finding; while more exploratory in nature than a theory, it is based on existing scientific knowledge.
  • A scientific law is an expression of a mathematical or descriptive relationship observed in nature.

Type: Professional Development

Original Student Tutorials Science - Grades 9-12

The Main Event: Scientific Theories vs. Scientific Laws:

Learn to recognize and explain the difference between scientific theories and scientific laws in this interactive tutorial. You'll also explore several examples of scientific theories and the evidence that supports them.

Student Resources

Vetted resources students can use to learn the concepts and skills in this benchmark.

Original Student Tutorial

The Main Event: Scientific Theories vs. Scientific Laws:

Learn to recognize and explain the difference between scientific theories and scientific laws in this interactive tutorial. You'll also explore several examples of scientific theories and the evidence that supports them.

Type: Original Student Tutorial

Parent Resources

Vetted resources caregivers can use to help students learn the concepts and skills in this benchmark.