Why Study the Periodic Table? July 13, 2017 16:17



Why Study the Periodic Table?

Chances are at some point you'll be asked to learn the periodic table. For many, this may seem like a tedious exercise. If you've studied chemistry for any amount of time, you know that the periodic table is important, but how often will you really use it? Why would it be important to learn the table well enough that it is committed to memory? That level of study requires time and effort, so it makes sense to ask those questions prior to spending the time needed to have it in your head.

The importance of the periodic table:

If you're taking chemistry at any level, you'll use the periodic table all the time. Having it committed to memory will help you in all aspects of your chemistry courses. The table is more than just a piece of paper with elements and atomic numbers to memorize; it's a chart of the building blocks of creation. Everything in the universe is made up of the elements on the table. It is your complete map of the composition of all that is. The periodic table names each element, and gives its elemental symbol, atomic number and weight. The elements are listed in order of their atomic number and are divided according to metals and non-metals. Metals can further be categorized into alkali, alkaline, lanthanoids, actinoids, transition metals, post transition metals, and metalloids. Non-metals are categorized as noble gases and other non-metals. Therefore, the table gives you a quick snapshot of every element that composes the universe and some basic understanding of that element's nature.

How will you use the table?

One way in which you will use the periodic table is to analyze trends in the elements on the table. The table itself is organized in a way that it shows trends in a variety of properties. These properties are:

  • Atomic Radius – ½ the distance between the nuclei of two adjacent atoms
  • Ionization Energy – the amount of energy needed to cause an electron to be removed from an atom while in the gas phase
  • Electron Affinity – An atom's ability to take in an electron
  • Electronegativity – An atom's ability to form a bond

When you move left to right across the rows of the periodic table, you find that the atomic radius decreases while the rest of these properties decrease. When moving from top to bottom down a column of the periodic table, the opposite is true: The atomic radius increases while the rest of the properties decrease.

This information is useful to you in all sorts of chemical problems you will encounter during your classes. The table can help you predict the properties of elements based on where they are in the table. It is organized in such a way that elements with similar characteristics are grouped together. Having this information in your head can help you immediately identify the chemical properties of any of the elements. It can also help you more quickly and accurately balance chemical equations – something you'll be doing a lot of in your studies.

In short, the information on the periodic table is something you need to know and understand in a variety of circumstances. Knowing this information without having to look it up all the time can give you an advantage when taking tests, working in the lab with chemical compounds, or solving complex chemical equations. Besides, memorizing the table is an exercise that will further familiarize you with the subject matter, enabling you to be a better student. You'll be able to recollect information that others will have to look up, and you are more likely to immediately recall facts about each element that others will not immediately remember.