Quantitative Skills > Teaching Resources > Activities > Exploring Radiometric Dating with Dice

Exploring Radiometric Dating with Dice

Carla Whittington derived from Baer (1999)

Geology Program, Highline Community College

Summary

This is a lab where students use dice to simulate radioactive decay. The use of dice has some advantages to other similar exercises, because the half-life is not immediately obvious to students, and they will need to experimentally determine it.

Students create a standard decay curve for a fictional element (Cascadium), calculate the half-life of this element, and, using the information their graph, "date" rocks that contain the new element.

Learning Goals

At the end of this activity, students should:

Context for Use

This is used in an introductory level geoscience class where a minimum of mathematical skills are required. It takes about an hour, and can be completed individually or in small groups. It does not need much supervision, so it could be used in a large class.

You will need:

Teaching Notes and Tips

The dice rolling itself takes only 20 minutes, the graphing another 15 minutes and the questions another 20 or so (but this last part is the most variable). Only the dice rolling need be done in-class - I assign the questions as homework.

Teaching Materials

The instructions for the students (Microsoft Word 26kB Feb16 05) is a word file that gives step-by-step student instructions
Data Table (Microsoft Word 56kB Feb16 05) is the data table students will need to fill out to complete the exercise
Student questions (Microsoft Word 26kB Feb16 05) is the list of questions we ask students to get them to analyze the data they have generated.

Assessment

I use traditional assessment on the submitted work.

Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Geochemistry:Radioisotopes, Mathematics
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity:Short Activity:Demonstration, Activities:Lab Activity
Special Interest: Quantitative, Large Classroom
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level
Learning Environment: Large Classes
Quantitative Skills: Units and Unit Conversions, Problem Solving, Arithmetic/Computation, Graphs, Logarithms/Exponential Functions, :Exponential Growth and Decay, Probability and Statistics:Describing Data Distribution, Data Trends:Curve Fitting/Regression, Probability and Statistics:Probability, Probability and Statistics
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Use: Enabling Student Investigation:Collect and interpret data, Illustrating concepts and ideas
Data Derived: Data Derived
Earth System Topics: Solid Earth:Earth Materials
Quantitative Skills Activity Type: Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Topics: Time/Earth History

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