It is also useful in the mathematics classroom by the process of graphing the data.Students should begin to see the pattern that each time they “take a half-life,” about half of the surrogate radioactive material becomes stable.In terms of entropy, radioactive decay can be defined as the tendency for matter and energy to gain inert uniformity or stability.

radioactive dating graphs-68

Randomcam boys - Radioactive dating graphs

Students then should be able to see the connection between the M&M’s and Puzzle Pieces and radioactive elements in archaeological samples.

a bad rap, what with radiation and fallout and nuclear waste and all. One of the coolest (OK, maybe the coolest) is using radioactive carbon to determine the age of old bones or plants.

Students are able to visualize and model what is meant by the half-life of a reaction.

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.

This experiment is best used by student working in pairs.

Learn about different types of radiometric dating, such as carbon dating.

Understand how decay and half life work to enable radiometric dating.

Of course, the best way to understand something is to model it, because the last thing you want to do at home is experiment with something radioactive. Before doing any modeling, you must first understand one key idea: Each atom in a sample of material has an essentially random chance to decay.

The rate of decay depends upon the number of atoms you have.

If only 25% of the radioactive isotope is left two half lives have passed.