The author Robert Krebs, said, “Without a doubt, the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements is the most elegant organizational chart ever devised.” Once you know how to read and use it, you understand how it brilliantly organizes so much complex information into an easily read format.
And yet, I never heard of the periodic table until high school chemistry and never appreciated it until after college. This is evident by my reaction to my geochemistry professor when he told his class that he spent his first two weeks in college committing the periodic table, each element and their atomic number, to memory. Everyone in that class, including me, thought he was nuts. We thought, “Who would commit all those details to memory? How long did that take?”
Fast-forward 25 years and my youngest son, as an 11 year old, can whip off the first 18 elements in the periodic table with their atomic numbers. He can do it as easily as many child fan can whip off the names and positions of all the players on his or her favorite sports team. My youngest son is not alone. His older brothers can do the same.
How did they come to know their way around the periodic table and learn the names and atomic numbers of all of these elements? Did we have intensive and constant flash card sessions? Did they take intensive computer tutorials? No the answer is much simpler. They ate breakfast.
Every morning for the past 6 years, they have had the periodic table underneath their cereal on a placement (from the aptly named Painless Learning Placemats company). They never intensively studied it. They were just exposed to it on a daily basis. After a few years they understood the periodic table and had half of all the elements memorized.
This is a simple, subtle and inexpensive way to introduce your children to an important yet complex tool that will help them in the coming years as they study chemistry and science. For these reasons, the Periodic Table Place Mat is the number 1 physical item in our house to teach science.
Where to find: You can order it straight from Painless Learning at www.painlesslearning.com or amazon.com or other retailer.
Price: $3.50 to $6.00