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How Big is the Nucleus of an Atom?

In Chemistry, we’ve been doing a lot of work with atomic structure. One thing that my students have been having trouble wrapping their minds around is just how tiny an atom and the nucleus of an atom are. I found a set of instructions online that have students cut paper in such a way to help them understand just how tiny a nucleus is.

how big is an atom?

Each student received a strip of paper and instructions to cut it in half as many times as they could.

Most of my students managed 7-8 cuts before they started saying that it was impossible to cut it in half any more. Their minds were kinda blown when I told them it would take approximately 31 cuts to approximate the size of an atomic nucleus!

The math teacher in me was VERY excited when I saw how one of my students had arranged the pieces of paper she had cut off from the strip. Isn’t it cool how they make a beautiful exponential curve?!?


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