# Alpha and beta decay equation practice

Last updated: 15/11/2023
Contributor: Teachit Author
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An information sheet and worksheet suitable for GCSE physics students, who will all benefit from the considerable number and variety of examples of real alpha and beta decay equations that are included.

The worksheet assumes that a reasonable introduction to alpha and beta particles has already been undertaken. A brief overview is provided in the first three pages of the resource, explaining how in the process of radioactive decay an unstable nucleus may emit an alpha particle or an electron (beta-minus particle), resulting in a new element. It provides clear reminders for students about how the number of protons and number of neutrons are affected. The worksheet provides practice balancing decay equations in both directions. They include the decay of the uranium-238 isotope to thorium and the decay of the carbon-14 isotope to nitrogen. Answers are included.

This resource was created for use with AQA GCSE physics but is general in its structure and so can be used for other specifications.

An extract from the information on alpha decay:

When a radioactive nucleus emits an alpha particle, the decaying nucleus obviously becomes lighter as it loses four particles: two protons and two neutrons.

All alpha decay equations therefore follow this simple pattern: the atomic number (or proton number) decreases by two, the mass number decreases by four (since the nucleus loses two protons and two neutrons).

An extract from the information on beta decay:

When a radioactive nucleus emits a beta particle, the decaying nucleus once again changes, but nowhere near as significantly as during alpha decay. As mentioned before, beta decays come in two types. At GCSE it is usual just to consider beta-minus decay.

Beta-minus decay happens when a neutron changes into a proton in the nucleus, spitting out an electron (the beta particle) in the process. This results in a more stable nucleus.

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### All reviews

Have you used this resource?

Thanks for providing a great worksheet with very detailed explanations of how to approach the questions. My students will really benefit from this.

Órlaith O'S

01/11/2021

19/04/2020

12/02/2019

Just what I needed thank you!

Helen Rayner

06/12/2018

Thanks for providing a great worksheet with very detailed explanations of how to approach the questions. My students will really benefit from this.

Órlaith O'S

01/11/2021

19/04/2020

12/02/2019

Just what I needed thank you!

Helen Rayner

06/12/2018