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Using the Periodic Table

Most chemistry classrooms have a periodic table hanging on the wall. The chart shows all of the known elements and provides a surprising lot of information about each. The chart – despite its quizzical shape – provides guidance to chemists around the world. Rationale behind its quizzical shape and arrangement of elements becomes increasingly apparent to chemistry students as they progress through further topics. The first column of elements (beginning with H – hydrogen – at the top left) have a similar set of chemical properties. All of them in the first column (except for hydrogen) are called the Alkali metals. The second column is called the Alkaline earth metals. Columns 3 through 12 are called Transition metals. The column on the far right represent the Noble gases. The periodic table is laid out very intentionally in columns and rows. A one-, two-, or three-letter identifier provides a convenient way for chemists to communicate about an element or combinations of elements without using the entire, formal name(s). The numbers (written in sequence from 1 through 118) represent the number of protons in one atom of that element. The number is called the atomic number. These and other important aspects of the period table are covered here.

Lesson 1 (or “Day 1”) Material
Lesson 2 (or “Day 2”) Material
Lesson 3 (or “Day 3”) Material
Lesson 4 (or “Day 4”) Material

4:27 Writing Electron Configurations using periodic table “Blocks”

4:18 Solving the puzzle of the periodic table – Eric Rosado

3:54 The science of spiciness – Rose Eveleth


Compare Contrast and Debate

Kick-Off Debate Background: Many items (well, actually all items) found in the kitchen and other areas in the home are made of chemicals or elements found on the Periodic Table. Some items – such as vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide – are relatively inexpensive and easy to access for teaching/learning aspects of chemical reactions. Because of this, some argue that demonstrations and experiments using these products is sufficient to launch chemistry investigations for students. Others argue that while this may be true about the potential teaching/learning opportunities, use of commercial-grade chemicals in early experimentation will better familiarize students with good safety practices in the lab.

  • Position A: Easy to get, inexpensive household products should be used to acquaint students with chemistry.
  • Position B: Only commercial grade chemicals, properly labeled and stored should be used for chemistry learning.

Resources Documents and Links

Notes and Notices

Instructor Emphasis:

  • Science & Engineering Practice: Ask questions and define problems.
  • Cross-Cutting Concept: Patterns.