Radiometric dating lab

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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories.

By extension, this experiment is a useful analogy to radioactive decay and carbon dating.

Students use M&M’s (or pennies and puzzle pieces) to demonstrate the idea of radioactive decay.

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Radiocarbon dates do not tell archaeologists exactly how old an artifact is, but they can date the sample within a few hundred years of the age.

It is also useful in the mathematics classroom by the process of graphing the data.

Not all of the atoms of a radioactive isotope (radioisotope) decay at the same time.

Rather, the atoms decay at a rate that is characteristic to the isotope.

Seeing this connection will help students to understand how scientists can determine the age of a sample by looking at the amount of radioactive material in the sample.

If two nuclei have different masses, but the same atomic number, those nuclei are considered to be isotopes.

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