Periodically Thinking About the Period Table

The topic that I would like to explore is the Periodic Table. I chose the Periodic Table for a few reasons. Also I’m just calling it PT from now on.  For one it’s a key element (somewhat pun intended) in understanding Chemistry. Let’s get something out of the way right away, yes you could still be a great chemist and great chemistry student with little to no understanding of the PT. The PT is like the table of contents in a very long book.  Does a table of contents help you understand a book? Not really. Does a table of contents prevent you from being able to read the book. Nope. But what a table of contents does do is make your life easier when trying to understand groupings in the book, and accessing specific information quickly. My saviors during my college career over at Khan Academy have a great crash course into the Periodic Table: https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/big-history-project/stars-and-elements/knowing-stars-elements/v/bhp-periodic-table-crashcourse

Another reason that I picked the PT is because it is something that as a future educator am curious how to tackle this subject. It’s impossible to deny that the old days of memorizing the PT is archaic.  Google has made it so. A quick type into google images brings up millions of different sources where the PT is present. Memorizing all 118 or even half is out. I’ll be blunt. I never memorized it, and earned a chemistry degree.  There’s like 20 main elements you just get familiar with just from using them so frequently (O, C, F, Cl, K, Br, H, He, ect. You get the point). Sivaram over at the Deccan Herald has a beautiful breakdown of the PT. https://www.deccanherald.com/150-years-of-periodic-table-it-s-elementary-722288.html

Now that I have gone through what I don’t think the PT is good for I’d like to talk about what it is really is good for.  And that’s as a grouping, counting and reference tool. It’s so incredible in how simple it is, but yet so intricate. There are trends that develop through the PT, ionization energy, atomic radii, electronegativity, electron affinity, metallic character, and melting point.  Chem Libretexts another undergrad savior of mine has a great breakdown and visuals of these trends. https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Inorganic_Chemistry/Supplemental_Modules_(Inorganic_Chemistry)/Descriptive_Chemistry/Periodic_Trends_of_Elemental_Properties/Periodic_Trends

Then there are groupings.  Where elements that mostly behave the same are in columns.  Then you’re able to get valence shell configurations from the table. It actually fits so perfectly and I don’t know the answer to this, is if Dmitri Mendeleev the person credited with creating the modern periodic table did this on purpose or completely on accident.  I could just see it being sorted by valence shell electrons then the rest falling into place being just lucky. Something I really need to look into. Either way, here’s Britannica’s biography on good ol’ Dimitri. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dmitri-Mendeleev

Now there are alternatives to the Tetris looking one we all know to come and love. These alternatives have become more popular lately, but I don’t know enough about them.  I don’t know if they are better to use or just an Instagram filter version of the PT (meaning just better at being better looking). There’s one that looks like a big Cinnebun and a small Cinnebun goo’ed together, one that looks like the fat burning cycle model sticker on a treadmill, one that looks like a pyramid scheme (which reminds me… selling Herbalife if anybodies interested…), plus many many more.  Another blogger took the time to compile them for me so take a look. http://www.chemistry-blog.com/2009/04/26/alternative-periodic-tables/comment-page-1/

There it is.  My thoughts after a long day of work and a nap on the Periodic Table.  I think I have a great grasp on the PT, and cannot wait to share what I think is the important aspects of it.  I had to use it so much that I was able to absorb what I needed from repetitive use. One of its trends also contains one topic that I am particularly a fan of and can’t wait to dive into it with a class if I get the chance and that’s electronegativity.  Gives me a chance to rag on fluorine for being a selfish self absorbed jerk. Thanks for reading and hope you have a great rest of your day!

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Published by kdbartel21

UWM Student in the Education field. Chemistry is my jam.

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3 Comments

  1. Hi Kyle, I think your focus on the practicality and use of the period table is the right way to go. Like you, I never memorized the periodic table, and my undergrad degree was in biochemistry, which included three years of chemistry. If I understood the term from this week’s class right, what you are talking about is helping students build a schema for the periodic table.

    You mentioned Mendeleev. I wonder if there would be value in spending part of a class on just the history of the table and why this particular format has been so successful over the years? I know as a student, I ate things like that up, but history so often is how I find relevancy and meaning in what I study.

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  2. Kyle,

    I really like that you want to focus on the periodic table. The neatest part of your whole approach to it so far, at least to me, is how you’re planning to use it. Obviously, it’s a staple in chemistry and can help you understand a lot of different characteristics about elements – I never considered using it as a resource to help students understand groupings, patterns, and the like (in fact, look at that – there’s a standard right there). I’m also getting my chemistry certification, so when I use the periodic table in my classes or start to teach it, I think I’m definitely going to keep your points in mind. This has been a great eye-opener for me. I’m excited to see what you come up with!

    Nicole

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  3. Kyle,
    I think you took darn near full advantage of the puns associated with the periodic table, a feat in itself. That aside, I really appreciate the way you approached this assignment by exploring a concrete topic that you will teach in the future rather than a teaching theory or pedagogy. I had not thought of the periodic table as a table of contents! but this truly captures its function, I think this would be a very helpful way to explain students how best to approach the PT. The Kahn academy and libretexts were my bread and butter getting through challenging chemistry concepts as well. I think giving students online resources outside of the classroom is a great way to help make topics more accessible.

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