Extension Activity with Isotopes Matter

Isotopes Matter Interactive Periodic Table

After receiving positive feedback from Peter Mahaffy, the IUPAC project co-chair of Isotopes Matter, I decided to add an additional component to the original isotope assignment I posted. The second component of the assignment focuses on the applications of both radioactive and stable isotopes using the interactive IUPAC periodic table.

In this component of the assignment, students chose three elements to review both their isotopes and uses. Of the three elements the students chose, one had to have a connection to medicine, one had to have a connection to nuclear energy, and they chose one final element. As students chose their elements I asked them to not only identify the uses of the isotope but to record whether or not the isotope is stable or radioactive. If students did not understand some of the vocabulary I asked them to utilize the glossary that is hyperlinked in each element description.  

Once the students collected their information we then divided the isotopes into those that were stable and those that were radioactive and had a student-led discussion based on the division of the two categories. The discussion revealed a lot of misconceptions about isotopes and initiated an introduction to half-life and nuclear equations as well.

The extension activity not only displayed real world applications of chemistry for the students but it provided an instruction transition between types of isotopes and the necessity to understand nuclear equations.

With this being my first year working with the Isotopes Matter applications, I plan on adding more formative assessments and assignments using this resource in the future. If you have any suggestions, please add them to the comments.




- atomic structure
- isotopes
- nuclear equations
- half-life 
- mass spectrometry

Time required: 

55-60 minutes for both parts of the extension activity


This extension activity was developled to follow the assignment Using IUPAC's Isotopes Matter as a Digital Learning Tool.


Part One: Choosing Isotopes

Students chose three elements to review both their isotopes and uses. Of the three elements the students chose:
- one had to have a connection to medicine
- one had to have a connection to nuclear energy
- student choice for the final element.

Students should be recording:
- uses of the isotope
- Is the isotope they are reviewing stable or radioactive?
- questions you still have about the isotope 


Part Two: Student-led Discussion

- students take the isotopes they chose and divide them into two categories on group whiteboards: stable and radioactive
- teacher facilitates a discussion in which students comments on their whiteboards and other whiteboards 
- the role of the teacher is to assist in making connections between groups, between isotope uses, and to address any misconceptions


- access to a computer with an Internet connection is necessary; JavaScript must be enabled
- for part two, students will need access to large whiteboards/poster paper and markers to display their information


Isotopes Matter is a project developed by IUPAC