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5 Ways to Make the Periodic Table of Elements Approachable for Students

Mutee Ur Rehman
Teaching with Labster
October 21, 2022

Introduction to the periodic table:

The periodic table is an arrangement of elements according to their chemical and physical properties. In a periodic table, elements are arranged in different rows and columns according to their physical and chemical properties.

Chemical properties that distinguish elements from each other are atomic number, atomic mass, electronegativity, density, melting point, boiling point, and ionic radius. The physical properties of periodic table elements are color, luster, malleability, hardness, solubility, and electrical conductivity. Based on these properties, elements are divided into different categories.

The periodic table is organized according to atomic weight and valence electrons in the outer shells of elements. The rows in a periodic table are known as periods, and each column is known as a group. There are seven rows and 18 columns in the periodic table. In a single row, all elements have the same number of atomic orbitals (spaces where electrons exist).

Meanwhile, the group shows the number of electrons in an atom’s outermost shell. These electrons are known as valence electrons. They can easily make chemical bonds with valence electrons of other elements. The bond type can be ionic or covalent.

The periodic table is based upon the principle that states, “the properties are a periodic function of their atomic mass”. This is the basic principle behind the existence of the periodic table. It means that elements' chemical and physical properties reoccur periodically if the elements are arranged according to their atomic weights.  Atomic weight is also known as relative atomic mass. It is the ratio of a chemical element’s atoms to some standard. Since 1961, the standard unit of atomic mass has been one-twelfth the mass of the isotope of carbon-12.

Elements are also classified by flame color test. It is one of the parameters of the classification of the periodic table. If you want to put an element in the periodic table, you would notice its flame color and then put it in the respective row and column.

The elements in the periodic table are classified as metals, non-metals, metalloids, halogens, noble gases, and rare earth elements.

periodic table

Why can the periodic table and its principle be tricky to understand?

Although it seems very interesting to look at the periodic table to understand it, it is not an interesting topic for the students. Rather it is kind of boring and hectic topic for students. Surely, there are reasons for that. So let’s discuss the reasons behind student’s difficulty understanding this topic:

1   It’s complicated:

Many chemical and physical properties of elements are not easy to understand, and many properties are related to each other, making it complex to understand the periodic table and its elements. When you study in detail, the rows and columns of the periodic table, there are lots of details that students should keep in mind to keep it accessible and easy. There is confusion between atomic numbers and atomic masses. It needs practice to fully grasp the concepts, so all these things make it a little complicated and complex for students to understand at first.

2   It feels abstract

Elements are classified into metals, non-metals, metalloids, noble gases, halogens, and other rare earth elements. All these categories have different properties, and while reading the periodic table, it feels scattered to approach all concepts and properties. It is difficult to say exactly what you must remember to understand the periodic table fully.

3   Too many terms to understand and remember

The periodic table is all about understanding the elements and their properties. There are atomic masses, atomic numbers, relative atomic numbers, flame colors, electrical conductivity, melting and boiling points, and other properties which are base of the classification of the periodic table, and it is the first step of understanding the periodic table to memorize all definitions and concepts of these properties. For this reason, it might be difficult for students to relate to this topic, leaving them exhausted.

5 ways to make the periodic table a more approachable topic:

Since we are familiar with problems that students may face during this topic, here are the 5 ways that make it an easier and more relatable topic.

1. Learn about the people behind the discovery of the periodic table:

At present, there are 118 elements in the periodic table. Back in the 19th century, only 30 elements were known. It became a burden for scientists to remember elements and their properties as the number of discovered elements continuously increased. They started categorizing elements according to their properties. The categorization of elements in a tabular form according to their properties became popular, and eventually, this arrangement of elements in tabular form is known as the periodic table.

Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834-1907)

Dmitri Mendeleev was a Russian chemist. He was an important contributor to the development of the periodic table. The periodic table made by him is the most important version of all periodic tables.

In 1869, after the rejection of Newlands Octave Law, Mendeleev's periodic table came into the picture.

This periodic table arranged elements based on their atomic mass and chemical properties. During Mendeleev's time, only 63 elements were known. After observing the properties, he found that the properties of elements were periodically related to atomic mass. He arranged elements so that elements with the same chemical properties fell into the same vertical columns of the periodic table. Mendeleev left some gaps for the undiscovered elements. Every newly discovered element can be included in a group without disturbing other elements.

Noble gases were not included in Mendeleev's periodic table as they were not discovered then. In the present form of the periodic table, noble gases are arranged in a separate group called Group-18.

2. Share the basic knowledge

To better understand the periodic table, some basic principles and definitions should be memorized and well-prepared. Understanding the concept is very important.

Students must observe the elements of the periodic table. The principle of the periodic table is very important

Some basic definitions which will help students to understand the periodic table more easily:

·        Periodic table: It is the rectangular arrangement of chemical elements based on their atomic masses.

·        Atomic mass: The atomic mass of an element is the average mass of atoms of an element measured in the atomic mass unit. Atomic mass unit is known as “amu” and “daltons”.

·        Valence electrons: The unpaired electrons in the outermost shell of an atom of an element.

·        Flame color: it is one of the properties of elements that help scientists to distinguish between elements based on their flame colors.

·        Types of elements: There are metals, non-metals, metalloids, noble gases, halogens, and other rare earth elements in the periodic table.

3. Give new names to rows

One technique to remember elements in the periodic table is to give new names to each column based on the elements in that column.

 Let’s talk about the above figure. Here is a column of the periodic table which contains Beryllium, Magnesium, Calcium, Strontium, Barium, and Radium. So by taking the initials of all elements, we can make a new phrase for that column that is “But My Calm Son Begs (for) Rugby”. In this way, you can remember the elements of this column. This is a very unique and easy way to understand and remember the position of elements on the periodic table.

4. Seeing is believing

It is often said that people learn more from the visual presentation of topics. Colors and pictures add more interest to the topic. Visual presentation enhances the imaginative ideas of students, and they can see what they imagined. It helps students to cope with the topic and take a better understanding of the topic. The same is the case with the periodic table. Students can only imagine the flame color test and chemical properties of elements but seeing your imagination visually gives you confidence and satisfaction.

Periodic table of elements virtual lab

Figure: an image of the arrangement of metals, non-metals, and metalloids in the periodic table.

5. Use virtual lab simulations

A virtual lab is a great source of learning for students. At Labster, students can watch 3D simulations related to their topics. Students can also apply their knowledge. It’s about the experience of applying your knowledge and seeing the results.

Teachers monitor the activities of students. There is a scoring theme in Labster. Simulations are short and easy to watch. This platform help students gain confidence in their knowledge and encourage them to try more theories.

Periodic table GIF

There are two 3D simulations in which the conduction of flame tests is being shown. The allocation of different elements is shown very clearly. Students can more easily relate to the topic.

  1. Periodic Table of Elements: Get the table organized in time! Virtual Lab

  2. Periodic Table (Principles): Get the table organized in time Virtual Lab

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