Unlike relative time, absolute time assigns specific ages to events or formations and is typically recorded in years before present.
This process requires much more sophisticated chemical analysis and, although other processes have been developed, often utilizes the decay rates of radioactive isotopes to determine the age of a given material.
You might have noticed that many of the oldest age dates come from a mineral called zircon.
Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you.
Absolute age dating is like saying you are 15 years old and your grandfather is 77 years old.
This means that a quartz sandstone deposited 500 million years ago will look very similar to a quartz sandstone deposited 50 years ago.
Making this processes even more difficult is the fact that due to plate tectonics some rock layers have been uplifted into mountains and eroded while others have subsided to form basins and be buried by younger sediments.