Accuracy of Carbon 14 Dating II

This Accuracy of Carbon 14 Dating II activity & project also includes:

The scientific issue of carbon-14 dating and exponential decay gets a statistics-based treatment in this problem. The class starts with a basic investigation of carbon content, but then branches out to questions of accuracy and ranges of values. A great science-meets-math activity, where the context of the problem changes how the answer gets reported.

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CCSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas

  • Link with a science unit on carbon dating of fossils or other prehistoric things
  • Use as a review or application problem for inverse function pairs like exponential and log functions
  • If the class has studied basic statistics, evaluate the error ranges in terms of standard deviations and p-values
Classroom Considerations

  • Another method to solve Part b involves starting at a functional value of 10/2 = 5 and solving for t in terms of c. This might be more intuitive to pupils uncomfortable with inverse functions
  • Learners without a strong physical science or statistics background might need more detailed explanation of giving a measured value as a range instead of a single value
Pros

  • Real-life science application with numbers of actual magnitude and accuracy
  • Provides opportunity for synthesis of inverse functions, interpretation of exponential decay, and developing meaningful answers in context
Cons

  • Class worksheet not separated from teaching notes and answer key
Common Core