Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Memorizing the Periodic Elements

My 10th grader was told to memorize about 60 elements, their name and their abbreviation.

As I helped him I realized how frustrating it is that some things are so similar with the abbreviation.

To help I finally decided the way it gets into the brain does not matter, so I divided the cards up.

First I made a stack of abbreviations that are just one letter. C = Carbon

Next I made a stack of those which are the first two letters of the chemical's name. Ca = Calcium

Next I made a stack of those with two consonants which was not the first two of the chemical's name. Cr = Chromium

Lastly I made a stack of those with two letters that had absolutely nothing to do with the English word for the chemical or is tricky. Cu = Copper Au = Gold

By focusing on memorizing just the groups, my son was able to remember them.

After that, ghere are about 5% that are giving him trouble.

A few I made up silly sayings to give the answer. Sodium is Na which stumped my son. I reminded him of how much salt my father puts on his food and we tell him enough is enough and he always says, "Nah! This is good!" So Na = Sodium. Although I know that table salt is not plain Na this is good enough for the purpose.

Later when they were all jumbled up he remembered them correctly. So long as the item is retained in the memory how it got in does not matter. If the info is retrieved by the brain correctly then learning has taken place.

1 comment:

dstb said...

I agree, learning the elements is tricky. There is a game website that my sister-in-law uses all the time to memorize facts. It is called sporcle and you can pick science, then chemistry and find games to quiz you on the element abbreviations.

I remember sodium as Na because the Egyptians used natron to dry out the bodies they were mummifying. Natron is a salt which is what sodium is. Sort of round about, but it works for me.

Obviously, many of the abbreviations stand for some Latin word. If we knew our Latin (which I don't) it probably wouldn't be so hard!

If you google search "alternate names of the elements" you will come to one of Theo Gray's pages (love his Elements book). These alternate names seem to explain some of the abbreviations. Of course, then you'd have to memorize that, so ....

Good luck. I'm doing chemistry with my 8th grader this year, so we'll be working on this, too.