Atom and Size

First, let me begin by saying it's such a relief to finally post my lesson!  It's been ready for quite a while, but I failed computer 101.

My science lesson revolved around an introduction to the atom.  In addition to defining the different parts, I wanted my students to get an idea of how small they are.  So to begin with, I presented a riddle many of us know:  If given the choice, would you want $1,000.00 or a penny a day, doubled each day for thirty days?  Of course, my students all chose one thousand dollars.

We made the calculations and discovered that the second option exceeded  $2,000000.00!  We then went from the concept of doubling to a demonstration of scientific notation which allows numbers to increase (or decrease) exponentially.  When we approached the realm of the size of atoms, we discussed the basic components, how all elements are made of those exact same building blocks, and how all matter is more empty space than anything else.

We finished by watching and discussing a Khan Academy video entitled Scale of the Very Small.  The video demonstrated scientific notation by starting with a honey bee  and whittling down to the size of an electron.  I LOVE Khan Academy!

My students really seemed to enjoy the lesson, and I have repeated it a number of times for different groups.


First of all, Alyson, you get the persistence award for the week!  And, the lesson focuses on a very fundamental and important idea -- that of understanding size.

I liked the Khan Academy video.  First, it is simple but engaging.  Second, I like the way he goes back and reviews after a few steps.  Third, since he shares his thinking, you can hear how many steps it takes to understand something as complex as the size of an atom.  I even like the mistakes where he goes back and corrects himself.  It helps dispel the idea that this is easy or some people just know information (known unscientifically as the "tah-dah" factor).  And, the math is right there, too.

Congratulations!  Cynthia