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These break down over time in a process scientists call radioactive decay.
Each original isotope, called the parent, gradually decays to form a new isotope, called the daughter.
Geologists often need to know the age of material that they find.
I ask the students to divide themselves into partners, and request that one partner to get a computer, while the second partner gets the record sheet they will use.
Although students could work through the simulation individually, I prefer partnerwork to foster discussion among students, encouraging scientific discourse (SP7).
They use absolute dating methods, sometimes called numerical dating, to give rocks an actual date, or date range, in number of years.
This is different to relative dating, which only puts geological events in time Most absolute dates for rocks are obtained with radiometric methods.
Each isotope is identified with what is called a ‘mass number’.