June 06, 2023
OWSD Nigeria National Chapter University of PortHarcourt Branch Series of Scientific Communications:Kalagbor Ihesinachi on Unlocking the power of mnemonics:remembering the first 56 elements!
Unlocking the power of mnemonics: remembering the first 56 elements!
Kalagbor A. Ihesinachi
Memorizing the elements in the Periodic Table is one of the challenges in studying chemistry for the young learner at the secondary education level or even to chemistry enthusiasts. Generally, to learn the Periodic, one will need to know the element’s name, symbol, atomic number and occasionally the atomic mass. These are all contained within the elements’ square on the table. One of the ways to overcome the Periodic Table challenge is by stringing the sequence of words that would help the student remember the elements and their order. In this paper, the author has developed three mnemonics that will enable the young chemistry student remember the first 56 elements of the Periodic Table. “Happy Helen and the fruits” mnemonics are used for the first 20 elements. The second 20 elements can be memorized using “Tina’s dressing and her beauty accessories and the last set of 16 elements mnemonics is on the Nubian Mother and her 14 daughters. Recognizable objects, names and materials were carefully chosen to associate each element with an image for the three mnemonics. The degree of success in similarities in the pronunciation of the words and that of the elements were 95%, 75% and 75% for first, second and third sets respectively. No word was used twice. In order to write the symbols of these elements correctly from these mnemonics, the student must follow the simple rules that have been put down. Barium (Ba), element number 56 was chosen as the last element because this is where the Periodic Table splits and the Lanthanides begin.
Keywords: Mnemonics, Happy Helen, Tina, Nubian Mother, Periodic Table, Barium, Chemistry enthusiasts
Young scientists have been hesitant to choose chemistry as a subject in the secondary education level and also as a course in the tertiary level. Few of them choose chemistry as a career. They often prefer the associated careers namely medicine, engineering, biotechnology, clinical biochemistry, forensic science, biomedical science, pharmacology and environmental consulting. Currently, there are fewer girls studying STEM subjects. In the Periodic table, one is expected to know the elements name, symbol, atomic number and occasionally the atomic mass. These are all contained with the elements’ square on the table. As teachers and educators, we seek ways of increasing the interest of young learners to embrace chemistry. The students can also create their own songs to help them memorize the Periodic Table. There are online games that allow us match elements with their symbols. Another approach is by stringing sequence of words that would help the student remember the elements and their order. This is referred to as mnemonics. These phrases when created do not have to make much sense. They only help the students to remember the elements. Chemistry is seen as a science subject that is too complex to understand especially for the first-time science student in the secondary school. Usually, it was difficult remembering the elements and their symbols. Oftentimes students chose to write them on pieces of papers, to help them remember. In the 70s, when schools resumed after the civil war, Chemistry teachers noticed the challenges students had with remembering the elements of the Periodic Table and came up with the mnemonic for the first 20 elements:
- He has large brain but can not offer full nine subjects. May all SPS come and protect Charles.
There were many versions as the years went by especially with silicon, phosphorous and sulphur. Each first letter stood for the first letter in the symbols of the elements. However, there is an anomaly with “subjects” (for Sodium Na) and “protect” (for Potassium, K). Though these words give the sound for the elements, the symbols do not correspond. It was difficult associating these two words with their correct symbols. There was need to associate each element and its symbol more quickly than just memorizing the letters. Pictures that make sense can be used. There are several apps that can be downloaded onto our smart phones that can help the students study the elements. Unfortunately, not every secondary school student in the developing countries can afford a smart phone. After four decades, there was need to improve upon the old mnemonics, as a result of the following deficiencies:
- He which stands for the first element, H, is the symbol for helium. With these two elements close to one another, it was confusing sometimes for the young chemistry student.
- This mnemonic would have been a lot easier to use if the first and second or even third letters in the words were to stand for the symbols of the corresponding elements. For example;
- He for Hydrogen, H can be taken
- Has for Helium (He) is incomplete, no “e” anywhere
- Large for Lithium (Li) is incomplete, no “I”
- Brain for Beryllium (Be) is incomplete, no “e”
- But (B) Can (C) Not (N) Offer (O) Full (F) are acceptable
- Nine for Neon (Ne) has “e” as the fourth letter
- Subjects for Sodium (Na)
- May for Magnesium (Mg) is incomplete, no “g” anywhere
- All for Aluminum (Al) is acceptable
- S for Silicon (Si) is incomplete, no “i”
- P for Phosphorus (P) is acceptable
- S for Sulphur (S) is acceptable
- Come for Chlorine (Cl) is incomplete, no “l”
- And for Argon (Ar) is incomplete, no “r”
- Protect for Potassium (K) does not start with K
- Charles for Calcium (Ca) has “a” as the third letter
From this, only 50% of the elements have easily recognizable symbols from the words in the mnemonic. In this paper, the author has developed mnemonic that will enable the young Chemistry student remember the first 20 elements and another 36 elements more in the Periodic Table and an easy approach to writing their symbols.
In order to associate each element with an image and its symbol, easily recognizable objects, names and materials used in developing this mnemonic.
For the first 20 elements the mnemonics begins with a female followed by different fruits:
- Happy Helen Likes Berries, Blueberries & Cranberries, Neem, Oranges, Flowers of Nectarines and Soft Mangoes. Almonds, Surinam (cherries), Peaches, Strawberries, Clementine, Apricots, Kiwis and Carrots (are good fruits).
H, He, Li, Be, B, C, N, O, F, Ne, Na, Mg, Al, Si, P, S, Cl, Ar, K, Ca
In these mnemonics, 95% of the elements have easily recognizable symbols from the words (fruits & adverbs). The only element that is still out of place is Sodium (Na). There is close similarities of the pronunciation of these words to the names of 12 elements (60%) in this set. The 8 elements that do not have similarities in pronunciation are: Blueberries (for Boron), Neem (for Nitrogen), Nectarines (for Neon), Surinam (for Silicon), Peaches (for Phosphorus), Strawberries (for Sulphur), Apricots (for Argon) and Kiwi (for Potassium).
For the 2nd 20 elements, the mnemonic starts with a female using her dressing style and the different accessories for her beauty:
- Since Tina Veered (into) Creamy Miniskirts, Freely Combining Nice Costumes, Zuni Garments, Gems (with) Assorted Selections, Brian Kept Robbing (the) Sorority Years (of) Zirconium.
Sc, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Ga, Ge, As, Se, Br, Kr, Rb, Sr, Y, Zr
In this mnemonic there are very close similarities in the pronunciation of the words and the elements for 85% of the elements except in 25% namely:
- Miniskirts (Min) for Manganese (Mn)
- Freely (Fre) for Iron (Fe)
- Zuni (Zui) for (Zinc)
- Robbing (Ro) for Rubidium (Ru)
- Sorority (Soro) for Strontium (Sr)
The last set of elements is the 16 elements (Nb –Ba). Barium (Ba) is the 56th element and this is where the table splits and the Lanthanides begin. This set is special because females have been used (a mother and her 14 daughters) all through the mnemonics and the last set of names all end with the letter “a” making it easier to end the mnemonics for quick remembrance.
- (A) Nubian Mother (has 14 girls), Tracy, Ruth, Rhoda, Pandora, Angela, Cindy, Indiana. The other seven are Sienna, Sabrina, Tessa, Iona, Xena, Cassandra and Bianca.
Nb, Mo, Tc, Ru, Rh, Pd, Ag, Cd, In, Sn, Sb, Te, I, Xe, Cs, Ba.
All the words have given us the right symbols in compliance with set rules.
The pronunciation of the words, have close similarities to the names of 75% of the elements. The elements which are exception to this are:
- Tracy (Tra) for Technitium (Tc)
- Angela for Argentium (silver)
- Sienna for Stannum (tin)
- Sabrina for Stibium (antimony)
For students and chemistry enthusiasts to write the symbols of these 56 elements correctly from these mnemonics, the student must follow these simple rules:
- The first letter stands for the first letter of the symbol or the only letter where applicable.
- For a two-letter symbol, it is the first letter plus either the 2nd or 3rd letter (after the first) NOT the 4th letter.
- The exception to these rules is the word used for Krypton (Kr) which is “kept”. We have to “import” the letter “r”.
- Prepositions and conjugations are not part of the symbols for the elements (e.g of, and, are, as, into, as well as the articles “A” and “the”.
The newly developed mnemonics have proven to be highly effective and have undergone successful testing. These mnemonic techniques provide a valuable tool for young scientists to easily remember the first 56 elements of the Periodic Table, along with their corresponding symbols. Moreover, they serve as a solution to the challenge of grasping the Periodic Table at the secondary education level. The first mnemonic focuses on the initial 20 elements (H to Ca), associating them with the concept of happiness and Helen's favorite fruits. The following 20 elements (Sc to Zr) are linked to Tina's wardrobe and her various accessories. Lastly, the remaining 16 elements (Nb to Ba) are memorized through a mnemonic that lists the names of 14 daughters of a Nubian Mother. Notably, none of the words used in the mnemonics are repeated, and prepositions, adjectives, adverbs, and conjunctions are not part of the symbols. This ensures that the mnemonics are concise and effective, facilitating a smooth and comprehensive learning experience. By utilizing these mnemonics, young learners can enhance their understanding of the Periodic Table and confidently navigate its complexities. Let's empower the next generation of scientists with the tools they need to excel in their scientific journeys!
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Rivers State University, Nkpolu-Oroworukuwo. P.M.B. 5080 Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
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