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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

How Do You Memorize the Elements?

By September 4, 2008

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One common chemistry class assignment is memorizing the elements. I don't think too many teachers make students learn the entire periodic table, but you'll usually have to know the first few rows. You can use flashcards to memorize the symbols of the elements. A lot of people use a mnemonic to help them remember the order of the elements. For example, a mnemonic for the first nine elements is:

Happy Henry Likes Beer But Could Not Obtain Food

I'm pretty sure there are better mnemonics out there (funny or easier to remember), but I haven't come across any that stand out in the crowd. Do you know a better mnemonic? Can you think of a better way to memorize the elements? If so, post a reply.


September 5, 2008 at 11:16 am
(1) David Bradley says:

Very timely, my son just started chemistry class at high school, having done general science stuff up to now (he’s almost 14) I’ll pass these on for him…he wasn’t too keen to have a PT on his bedroom wall among his Ferraris, fighter jets and Bart Simpson!

September 5, 2008 at 8:08 pm
(2) trr says:

How ’bout that old Tom Lehrer song about the elements? I just spent a lot of time looking at periodic tables as well learning interesting things about many elements. There’s an Oliver Sacks book, Uncle Tungsten on his interest in the elements, too. A good read.

September 5, 2008 at 8:13 pm
(3) trr says:

Your mnemonic should go one more and finish the shell/period with neon. Maybe “normally” would work. I’m not much into mnemonics, but I do like that fella Roy G. Biv.
And why is Henry happy if he can’t get any food? ;-)

September 5, 2008 at 11:20 pm
(4) Margaret says:

These are the two I learnt at school (and still remember forty years down the track)

Little Betty Botter Can Not Often Faint Neatly

Naughty Maggie Always Sits Pondering Silently – Clever Ain’t-she

November 15, 2008 at 9:39 pm
(5) cory abouaf says:

I have a story which will help you learn the first 46 symbols.

December 16, 2009 at 8:45 pm
(6) frustrated says:

cory could you type the story or leave a link to it? I’m really frustrated and need help!

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