During each trial, students record the number of radioactive parent isotopes and record this in a data table.
Once all groups finish, each group records their info on the class decay table (on the board) and we calculate the averages of the class. Isotope Concepts: Students should begin to see the pattern that each time they dump out their M&Ms, about half become stable.
They then gather the radioactive, or M side up M&Ms, put them back in the container, and then pour them out again. and continue this process until all M&Ms are stable, or M side down.
Once this info is calculated, students create a graph comparing the class average of parent isotopes to the number of half-lives. Students will be able to explain what a half-life of a rock is. Students will have a more in-depth understanding of what radioactive decay is. Students will understand how scientists use half-lives to date the age of rocks. Students then should be able to see the connection of the M&Ms and radioactive elements in rocks, and how scientists can determine the age of rocks by looking at the amount of radioactive material in the rock.
Skills: -critical thinking -data analysis -questioning -graphing and data collecting Vocab Words: 1. This activity can be adapted for older students, but is used in an 8th grade earth science classroom.
A lot of the students said because they shook the containers differently... I also have students wash their hands before the activity, because of course after, the students eat the M&Ms. Radioactive decay and half-lives can be a very difficult concept for our 8th graders to grasp.
They not only enjoyed this activity, but they really gained a better understanding of it as well.