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.
About 30-40 minutes for the activity. This depends on how many balances are available to share and how many different isotopes are made for a single element. We had 5 balances for 12 or 13 teams of two students. Students can work in groups of 3 as well.
Erica Jacobsen shares highlights from the August 2017 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education that are of special interest to high school chemistry teachers.
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.
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.
Using Isotopes Matter and the class discussion: 55-60 minutes
In my high school chemistry class, a unit we cover is that of atomic structure. In particular, given an elements symbol, mass number, atomic number, and charge, the objective would be for the student to determine the atoms number of protons, neutrons, and electrons. I have several apps/program suggestions that can be useful for this purpose.