How to Memorize the Periodic Table


Memorizing the periodic table can be a very rewarding endeavor. Whether we realize it or not, chemistry plays a huge role in our day to day lives — and who knows, the atomic number of plutonium may be your prize-winning question on Jeopardy one day. Regardless of the reason you want to learn the periodic table, doing so is easier said than done; with 118 current entries on the list, it’s a lot of information to absorb.

Getting the Table

Think of the periodic table like your multiplication tables. The only way to learn it is through studying it over and over again. With that in mind, find a printable copy or keep the table on your phone. Whenever you get a bit of downtime, read over the table. Familiarize yourself with the different parts of each entry.

Each entry is made up of five pieces of information: the atomic number of the element, found in the top left corner (and you’ll see that the table is arranged based on atomic number), the elemental symbol in the center of the entry, the name of the element directly below the symbol, the atomic weight below the name and the ion charge.

The atomic number is simply the number of protons in the nucleus of the element. The atomic weight is the total number of protons and neutrons combined. It’s easy to get these two numbers confused, but they are vastly different from one another.

Learning the Table

There are various methods you can use to learn the periodic table. The most effective way is most likely breaking it down into various parts; for example, learning it by columns or by rows. Some people will break the table down even further and learn it by elemental type. The way you choose to learn is up to you.

Sing the Elements

One of the most effective ways of learning, backed by years of study and research, is through hearing information. Auditory learners find it much easier if the information is presented in an audible way to them. As such, there are a number of songs about the periodic table. Tom Lehrer penned one such song dubbed “The Elements” which can be found on YouTube and a host of other places. The catchy tune will help you memorize the various elements and place them in the proper order on the table.

Seeing FClBrIAt In a New Way

Just as auditory learning is effective for some people, visual learning is effective for others. Breaking the periodic table up into rows and memorizing their order from the silly words formed is a great way to keep the order of the elements straight. The example above is the noble gases listed out: fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, astatine.

Happy Hector Likes Beer But Could Not Obtain Food

Mnemonic devices are fantastic for memorization purpose. By memorizing a silly sentence or turn of phrase and linking specific elements to each word, you can more easily memorize the elements. For example:

Happy – Hydrogen
Hector – Helium
Likes – Lithium
Beer – Beryllium
But – Boron
Could – Carbon
Not – Nitrogen
Obtain – Oxygen
Food – Fluorine

Focus on learning smaller groups of elements and work your way up. Your brain is like a muscle; the more you memorize, the easier it gets. Follow one or all of the tips above and you will soon be a master at learning the periodic table.



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