How to memorize the whole periodic table

Image credit: 

Just as some math geeks strive to memorize pi to 1,000 places (or in the case of British savant and mental_floss bloggee Daniel Tammet, several thousand places), there are science geeks who strive to memorize the periodic table. (Granted, the periodic table has a finite amount of information, whereas pi does not. But still, it's a daunting task.) To help get your keyboards sharpened for our periodic table quiz later this week, here are some tips on how you can commit the whole shebang to memory (and thus pass with flying colors):

"¢ Of course, long mnemonic sentences can help you remember the names of the elements, like Hi! He Lies Because Boron CanNot Oxide Fluoride (for the first nine elements H, He, Li, Be, Bo, C, N, O and F) or New Nation Might Also Sign Peace Security Clause for the eight elements following.

"¢ What's harder is memorizing the other periodic table data, like the elements' number, valence, mass etc. But thememorypage.net has a cool method for remembering long strings of numbers, by converting them to words, which you can then string together into sentences! Check it out:

Suppose we assigned each of the digits 0 through 9 to a consonant. Then, when we want to remember a number, we convert the number into consonants, insert vowels, and form a word. This word can then be used to form an association much more readily, rather than trying to use the number itself.

As an example, suppose we want to remember that the Old Testament has 39 books, and suppose 3 and 9 translated into M and P, respectively. We could then insert the vowel A between the consonants to come up with the word "map". We would then visualize a huge map in front of us, with the Mediterranean Sea, Israel, Egypt, Mt. Sinai, etc.: a nice map of the Old Testament. Two weeks later we want to remember how many books were in the Old Testament. We recall that huge map with all the places on it. MAP... consonants are M and P... that's 3 and 9. 39! We did it! That's sort of a roundabout way of doing it, but it works, because of the associations.

Now that you've got that down, study up and get ready for our upcoming quiz! (Oh, and don't forget to study the history and fun trivia behind all those elements either; that'll definitely come in handy.)

May 14, 2007 - 2:56am
submit to reddit