The Periodic Table for Beginners: What to Know

If you’ve ever asked the question, “What is the periodic table?”, you’re in the right place. The periodic table is a chart that categorizes the elements based on their physical and chemical properties. These elements can be found in all matter, from diamonds to air, and are key building blocks of our universe.

The most notable feature of the periodic table is its layout: it groups together various elements depending on their atomic numbers—the number of protons each element has in its nucleus. Elements with similar properties (such as hydrogen and oxygen) are then placed in columns, and rows are used to differentiate between metals, nonmetals, and other categories of elements. This organization makes it possible to quickly and easily determine the characteristics of any given element.

Put simply, the periodic table is your key to unlocking the secrets of the elements that make up our world!

History and Development of the Periodic Table

The periodic table wasn’t always the organized chart of elements we know and love today! Its development and evolution is a fascinating story.

In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev published his now-famous periodic table as a way to organize chemical elements according to their atomic weight. This table made it possible to predict certain properties of undiscovered elements using trends in properties among known elements. Since then, the periodic table has undergone several revisions with the addition of new elements.

Most recently, in 2016 the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted the last four names for elements 113-116: nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts), and oganesson (Og). This officialized the completion of the seventh row on the periodic table!

The periodic table is an incredible tool for scientists, chemists, and students alike – a tangible representation of order, beauty, science…and history!

The Advantages of the Periodic Table

You may not know this, but the periodic table isn’t just a tool for memorization and visualization – it also has a lot of advantages when it comes to understanding chemistry.

Visual Clarity

The periodic table gives you a visual overview of all elements and their properties, like atomic mass and symbol. This makes it easier to remember and compare elements quickly, allowing for more efficient study.

Trends in Properties

The organization of elements into periods and groups allows for the identification of trends in their physical and chemical properties. This helps students better understand how elements interact or behave under different circumstances.


The periodic table is available in almost all institutions across the world. Making it the most accessible source of information on the chemical elements. It can be used as a reference guide during experiments, lectures and labs making it an invaluable resource.

So if you’re just starting out with chemistry, don’t worry – the periodic table has got your back!

Elements Explained: Metals and Nonmetals

You may not know this, but the elements in the periodic table can be broadly divided into two categories: metals and nonmetals. Metals are usually shiny, hard, and good conductors of electricity. While nonmetals tend to be dull and brittle, and can act as insulators.


Metals are used for a variety of purposes due to their high strength and malleability. Gold is often used in jewelry because of its low reactivity, silver is used as an electrical conductor due to its high ductility. And iron is commonly found in buildings because of its high strength.


Nonmetals usually have a low reactivity with other substances. Carbon is frequently used in the production of everyday items like plastic, textiles, paints and rubber because it’s so chemically stable. Oxygen is essential for life forms as it provides energy when burned with other elements, like carbon or hydrogen.

It’s important to remember that all elements have different properties – some may exhibit characteristics of both metals and nonmetals. For example, boron has the electrical conductivity of a metal but also the brittleness of a nonmetal! Understanding these individual properties will help you better understand how the elements interact with one another on the periodic table.

Understanding Columns, Families, and Groups

You may not know it, but the periodic table is organized into vertical columns or groups, and horizontal rows or periods. Each group contains elements with the same amount of positively charged protons in the nucleus.

So why is this important? Well, understanding columns and their “families” can help predict a lot about an element’s properties. Like reactivity and state of matter. For example, elements in Group 1 (the Alkali Metals) are usually soft solids that are very reactive in water and other reactions.

Groups & Families

Generally speaking, elements can be divided into Groups numbered 1-18 on the periodic table. Within each Group, there may also be “families” which share similar characteristics. Like Alkali Metals (Group 1A) and Halogens (Group 17A).


The periodic table is also divided into horizontal rows called periods. These represent different energy levels of the electrons circling around an atom’s nucleus. A key takeaway to remember is that as you go across a period from left to right. Each element will have one extra electron in its outer shell than the previous element had.

Exploring Trends in the Table

You may not know this, but the periodic table is more than just a collection of elements. In fact, if you take some time to explore the table, you’ll be able to find some interesting trends.

Arranging Elements by Atomic Number

The elements are arranged by atomic number. This means that each position on the periodic table corresponds with the number of protons in that element’s nucleus. This allows us to make predictions about how elements will behave and react – a crucial tool for chemists.

Grouping Elements into Families

When grouped into families, certain elements will bear more resemblance to one another in terms of their properties and characteristics. For example, elements in group 1 have a single valence electron. That is, an electron located outside of the nucleus and available for bonding. This is why we call them ‘alkali’ metals; they are all reactive and tend to form similar compounds when bonded with other elements.

Exploring Patterns Across Rows and Columns

Finally, there are patterns that can be found across rows and columns of the periodic table. As you move from left to right across a row (or period). You’ll find that elements become increasingly reactive as their atomic numbers increase. This is because additional electrons are added to ever higher energy levels in these elements. Conversely, as you move downwards (within a group). The outermost electrons become closer together – hence why these elements often share common properties.

By exploring these trends within the periodic table. Chemists can gain great insights into how different elements interact with each other. Making it an essential resource for any budding scientist!

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