Use Mega M&Ms, M&Ms minis, and regular M&M’s in this activity to examine the concept of isotopes and average atomic mass. The color of the M&M’s represent that they are the same element and have the same number of protons. The size represents, in a relative sense, the different numbers of neutrons.
In this activity, students can look inside the model that resembles the atom and find information that reinforces what an isotope actually is. Furthermore, the quantitative data forces students to examine beliefs about different types of averages and what the numbers really mean. This takes a bit of effort to set up but is inexpensive and can be used year after year.
This is the first isotope activity I have tried where the students can look inside the model that resembled the atom and find information that reinforced what an isotope actually is. Furthermore, the quantitative data forced them to examine beliefs about different types of averages and what the numbers really mean.
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.
Isotopes Matter is a digital learning tool, developed by IUPAC Isotopic Periodic Table, designed to explain isotopes as well as their importance. This resource incorporates mass spectroscopy data into each of the key ideas as well as provides multiple examples as to how varying isotopes are commonly used.