Radioactive Decay Activity

This is a link to an activity that simulates radioactive decay using M&Ms and skittles. This is a good activity to help students understand half-life.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5
Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2
Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.3
Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.6
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective, analyzing how style and content...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10
By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10
By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective...
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.9
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
CLE 3001.6.1
Comprehend and summarize the main ideas of informational and technical texts and determine the essential elements that elaborate them.
CLE 3002.6.1
Comprehend and summarize the main ideas of informational and technical texts and determine the essential elements that elaborate them.
CLE 3003.3.1
Write in a variety of modes, with particular emphasis on persuasion, for different purposes and audiences.
CLE 3003.3.3
Organize ideas into an essay with a thesis statement in the introduction, well-constructed paragraphs, a conclusion, and transition sentences that connect...
CLE 3003.6.1
Comprehend and summarize the main ideas of complex informational texts and determine the essential elements that elaborate them.
CLE 3003.6.2
Analyze the organizational structures of complex informational and technical texts.
CLE 3003.6.3
Read, interpret, and analyze graphics that support complex informational and technical texts.
CLE 3003.8.1
Demonstrate knowledge of significant works of American literature from the colonial period to the present and make relevant comparisons.
CLE 3003.8.4
Analyze works of American literature for what is suggested about the historical period in which they were written.
CLE 3003.8.5
Know and use appropriate literary terms to derive meaning and comprehension from various literary genres.
CLE 3005.3.3
Organize ideas into an essay with a thesis statement in the introduction, well-constructed paragraphs, a conclusion, and transition sentences that connect...
CLE 3005.6.1
Comprehend and summarize the main ideas of complex informational texts and determine the essential elements that elaborate them.
CLE 3005.6.3
Read, interpret, and analyze graphics that support complex informational and technical texts.
CLE 3005.8.5
Know and use appropriate literary terms to derive meaning and comprehension from various literary genres.
CLE 3221.3.2
Analyze chemical and nuclear reactions.
SPI 3003.2.5
Identify the rhetorical devices used in a complex speech (i.e., rhetorical questions, parallelism and repetition, analogies, hyperbole, metaphors, simile,...
SPI 3003.3.13
Identify the targeted audience for a selected passage.
SPI 3003.3.8
Choose the transitional device that appropriately connects sentences or paragraphs within a writing sample.
SPI 3003.6.1
Discern the stated or implied main idea and supporting details of a complex informational or technical passage.
SPI 3003.6.3
Analyze the ways in which the organizational structure of a complex informational or technical text supports or confounds its meaning or purpose.
TSS.ELA.11-12.L.VAU.5
Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings in grades 11-12 reading and content; interpret...
TSS.ELA.11-12.RI.CS.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze how an author...
TSS.ELA.11-12.RI.CS.6
Determine an author's point of view and/or purpose in a text, analyzing how style and content contribute to its effectiveness.
TSS.ELA.11-12.RL.CS.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific...
TSS.ELA.11-12.RL.CS.6
Analyze how point of view and/or author purpose requires distinguishing what is directly stated in texts and what is implied.
TSS.ELA.11-12.W.RBPK.9
Support and defend interpretations, analyses, reflections, or research with evidence found in literature or informational texts, applying grade band...
TSS.ELA.11-12.W.TTP.2
Write informative/explanatory texts to analyze, synthesize, and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the...
 
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
 
Learning objectives: 
  • To demonstrate that the rates of decay of unstable nuclei can be measured, that the exact time that a certain nucleus will decay cannot be predicted, and that it takes a very large number of nuclei to find the rate of decay.
Essential and guiding questions: 
  • What important discovery was made by Wilhelm Roentgen?
  • What material did Antoine Becquerel work with in his own investigations of X rays?
  • What did Becquerel discover through his experiments?
  • What two elements were discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie?
  • Why is Ernest Rutherford considered the father of nuclear physics? List Rutherford's major achievements.
  • In your own words, what do we mean by nuclear decay?
  • What do you think is emitted during radioactive decay?
  • What is the chance of getting heads on any flip?
  • What do we mean by random?
  • How many nuclei will be left after the second half-life?
  • How many would you predict will be left after the third half-life?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Applying
Extension suggestions: 
  • The IAEA News Center is the public information and news service of the International Atomic Energy Agency on the Internet. Links to all IAEA online services can be found here. Visit this site for more information about strontium-90 and about the nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986 and its aftermath.
  • The Photograhic Periodic Table of the Elements can be used to find all the known isotopes of all the elements, their decay modes, and half-lives.

Helpful Hints

Materials:
For each pair of students, you will need:

  • a cup containing about 80 small candies such as plain M&M's® or Skittles®
  • a paper towel

References

Contributors: