Radioactive Decay and Carbon Dating

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Using 'real life' data to explore exponential graphs

Lesson idea. This project explores exponential graphs and how these are applied in radioactive decay, including carbon dating. For those studying for their GCSEs, it would be appropriate to explore radioactive decay theory and how this forms the basis of carbon dating, including topics such as half-lives and what radioactivity is. This knowledge can be further applied into the processes inside a nuclear reactor; perhaps a student could develop this project by drawing graphs of the amounts of energy released by different radioisotopes when bombarded with a neutron in a nuclear reactor. Learning about exponential graphs would also deepen a student’s understanding of compound interest, which is part of the Maths curriculum and in preparation for A-level Maths.

Teaching approach. This lesson features a ‘real life’ example for students to explore using visualisation(ta) via GeoGebra. The focus on ‘real life’ increases student motivation.

The activity engages pupils in group talk(ta), mathematical thinking(ta) and vocabulary(ta). This open ended(ta) task encourages higher order(ta) thinking, and encourages whole class(ta) discussion(ta)/questioning(ta) and inquiry(ta) projects. (edit)

Resource details
Title Radioactive Decay and Carbon Dating
Topic Visualisation
Teaching approach
Learning Objectives

By the end of the activity students should be able to understand how a mathematical software modelling and visualisation tool such as GeoGebra can be used to explore 'real life' mathematics.

Format / structure

wiki page with downloadable .doc version

Age of students / grade

KS4,  KS3,  Secondary

Related ORBIT Wiki Resources

This activity was a result of the GeoGebra STEM Exploration umbrella activity which asked students to develop 'real world' GeoGebra mathematical modeling applications which reach out to a wide range of users both students and teachers. It is described in their own words.

Files and resources to view and download

This is the document plus accompanying GeoGebra application. It was produced by students and can be used to further stimulate new students: