This page first made public: After death, the carbon decays and is not replaced. What does that tell you about how the quantity of "radioactive isotopes" affects the number that decay? References and Resources Here are links to several variations on this theme. Radioactive materials contain some nuclei that are stable and other nuclei that are unstable. Set up a place on the board where all students or groups can record their data. Repeat steps 2 through 5 until all the candies have decayed or until you have completed Trial 7. Having students work through a short problem in groups or on their own that applies these concepts in a geologic context -- a problem where they have to read a graph or calculate how many isotopes are left after x half-lives -- can also provide a quick check. Feb 25, Summary A demonstration with full class participation to illustrate radioactive decay by flipping coins. Have the students record the number of candies they returned to the bag under the next Trial. There are many processes which can make a mineral appear to have a different age than it actually does. How is radioactive decay sort of like gambling or playing the lottery? What about if we only had half as many in this class?
After two or three "half-lives" What is happening to the number of students standing? Feb 25, Summary A demonstration with full class participation to illustrate radioactive decay by flipping coins. Rather, the atoms decay at a rate that is characteristic to the isotope. If parent atoms can leave or daughter atoms can be added, then the mineral will have a lower parent-daughter ratio than it should, and so will appear older than it really is. Have the class stand up. After about 3 or 4 "half-lives" ask students to predict what's going to happen to the numbers of remaining parent isotopes. The students should move the candies that are blank on the top to the side — these have now decayed to a stable state. An example of isotopes is carbon, which has three main isotopes, carbon, carbon and carbon I usually let them keep the penny at the end of the class. If you know the half-life of an isotope, and the amount of parent and daughter atoms present in a sample, you can calculate the age, t, of the sample using: Radioactive materials contain some nuclei that are stable and other nuclei that are unstable. The five categories included in the process are Scientific Accuracy Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments Pedagogic Effectiveness Robustness usability and dependability of all components Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http: Teaching Materials In a large class, give each student a penny. To define the terms half-life and radioactive decay To model the rate of radioactive decay To create line graphs from collected data To compare data To understand how radioactive decay is used to date archaeological artifacts Background Half-Life If two nuclei have different masses, but the same atomic number, those nuclei are considered to be isotopes. There are many processes which can make a mineral appear to have a different age than it actually does. Some of them include handouts to use for homework in smaller classes. Shake the bag and spill out the candies onto a flat surface. Do the same number of students sit down each time we flip the coins? Instead, the life-time of any given atom is essentially random; one atom may only last one half-life, whereas another may last several hundred half-lives. A short written quiz might also be a way to assess comprehension. However, it is important to remember that an absolute time scale relates to a measurable physical process, not that there are no errors in the measurement. This demonstration is a great way to break up the lecture with a short activity -- students get to stretch their legs. It is a great way to introduce or reinforce the concepts involved in radioactive decay. Teaching Notes and Tips If your class is particularly large, you might want to have a few students help you count the "undecayed" isotopes. Can you predict which of you is going to be the first to sit down?
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