# The element potassium's atomic number is 19. Its relative atomic mass is 39.098. How many protons occur in a potassium atom?

Jul 30, 2016

$19$

#### Explanation:

This is a perfect example of a problem that wants to test your understanding of a basic concept.

An element's atomic number tells you how many protons are present inside that element's nucleus. As you can see, the answer is given away in the question, provided that you know what the atomic number is all about.

You can thus say that an atom of potassium contains $19$ protons.

You can use the relative atomic mass, ${A}_{r}$, of potassium to figure out how many neutrons are present in the most abundant potassium isotope.

To do that, simply take the value of the relative atomic mass and round it to the nearest integer. This will get you the mass number of the most abundant potassium isotope.

$39.098 \approx 39$
This tells you that the most abundant isotope of potassium contains $19$ protons and
$39 - 19 = \text{20 neutrons}$ You now know that the most abundant isotope of potassium contains $20$ neutrons. All isotopes of potassium will have the same number of protons inside their nucleus, i.e. $19$ protons.