This student hand-out was created specifically to accompany the PhET simulation "Alpha Decay". Appropriate for grades 8-12, it provides guided directions to help students understand the random nature of decay of a radioactive substance (Polonium-211). As they watch the alpha particle eject from the nucleus, they can see the "parent" decay into an atom with a mass number of 4 less than the original. Reset the nucleus to see the randomness. Next, the ante is upped, as students switch the view to "Multiple Atoms". They can empty a "Bucket" of 100 Polonium-211 atoms and watch a pattern of decay simulated among multiple particles. Even though the decay rate of an individual atom is not predictable, the simulation clearly depicts the trend that half the atoms will decay by the designated half-life. The alpha decay simulation, which must be open and displayed to perform this activity, is available from PhET at: Alpha Decay. This lesson is part of PhET (Physics Education Technology Project), a large collection of free interactive simulations for science education.


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Update Standards?

CCSS.Math.Practice.MP4: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Model with mathematics.

CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-IF.B: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Interpret functions that arise in applications in terms of the context

CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-IF.B.6: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Calculate and interpret the average rate of change of a function (presented symbolically or as a table) over a specified interval. Estimate the rate of change from a graph.?

CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-LE.A: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Construct and compare linear, quadratic, and exponential models and solve problems

CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-LE.A.1: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Distinguish between situations that can be modeled with linear functions and with exponential functions.

CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-LE.A.1c: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Recognize situations in which a quantity grows or decays by a constant percent rate per unit interval relative to another.

CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-LE.B: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Interpret expressions for functions in terms of the situation they model

CCSS.Math.Content.HSF-LE.B.5: Common Core State Standards for Mathematics

Interpret the parameters in a linear or exponential function in terms of a context.
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