This experiment is best used by student working in pairs. Related Links Radioactive Decay Probability. It is also useful in the mathematics classroom by the process of graphing the data. You will need enough coins I use pennies for each person in the class, some sort of graph paper printed on an overhead, an overhead projector and a pen for the overhead. 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 their penny lands on heads, they are radioactive and have decayed and they should sit; if their penny lands on tails, they have not decayed and may remain standing.
Demonstration of radioactive decay using pennies
Did each group get the same results? Some questions to get the students started thinking about these concepts: If the population of the earth is now 7 billion people, how many people will be here when you are 95 years old? How is radioactive decay sort of like gambling or playing the lottery? Large Classes Quantitative Skills: By looking at the ratio of carbon to carbon in the sample and comparing it to the ratio in a living organism, it is possible to determine the age of a formerly living thing. Plot the total results on a graph with number of candies on the vertical axis and trial number on the horizontal axis.