How to Memorize the Periodic Table of the Elements (within a week)

A few months ago, I barely even thought about the daunting Elements. This week, I memorized the periodic table of the elements using a mnemonic system called the Memory Palace. No flash cards, no money spent, no courses taken, no song, and no studying. Best part? More than just memorizing, creating a memory palace also works well for long-term memory!

I worked through the first 30 elements in a day, and finished the rest of them throughout the week, in between running a business and preparing for a graduation. With this method, if you’re on a time crunch, you can probably memorize it within a couple days! ūüôā

How to Memorize the Periodic Table in a Week - with no flashcards, music, or courses!

 

After pulling a huge¬†blank¬†on a quiz¬†that I actually studied on, I realized I needed to revamp my study habits. Rote memorization just wasn’t working for me. As fate would have it, I came across this article on memory; and learned about a¬†medical student, Alex Mullen, who¬†memorized the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards in¬†21.5 seconds. (The current world record is 18.653 seconds!) Alex has¬†set the world record for the most random numbers memorized in an hour – 3,029. He’s also memorized 3,888 binary digits in 30 minutes.

Are you kidding me?? I didn’t need to memorize thousands of random digits and cards¬†that quickly; I just needed to pass some tests!

My research led me to the book Moonwalking with Einstein, and what’s called the Memory Palace, or the ‘method of Loci.’ (The author of¬†Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer,¬†has a pretty cool¬†story about how he “accidentally” won the US Memory Championships.)

No super memory or super brain required: the method of Loci is a 2500 year old Greek mnemonic device that is based¬†on spatial memory. In short, it is the method of mentally creating¬†images for what you want to memorize, and placing those images in an order, in an area you are familiar with. This “palace”¬†could be your home, your drive to work, your high school, or your favorite restaurant. When you want to recall each item, you mentally retrace your steps. (To try it out, here’s Alex Mullen¬†walking you through a list of 20 random words.)

As I tested it out with random objects, it was easy to visualize¬†concrete items¬†like your grocery list, but what about more abstract terms, like helium or lithium?¬†Science has¬†never interested me, and I’ve never found it very useful. A few months ago I¬†never even dreamed about memorizing the daunting Periodic Table. I decided to put the Memory Palace to the ultimate test; and I wanted to memorize the Periodic Table of the Elements!

I downloaded the¬†app Memrise, co-created by World Memory Champion competitor Ed Cooke, for inspiration for creating images for each of the elements. It took a strong imagination to truly make each element “stick”, but I had so much fun doing this! (Now, I just need to work on my pronunciations.)

In elementary school, I remember memorizing¬†the books of the Bible to the song¬†He Is by Aaron Jeffery. With this table, I wanted to not only memorize the random names, but also have a basic understanding of them. Many of the mnemonics are silly and fun images inspired by the element’s name, but many have historical and/or scientific meanings behind them, for example, Iridium, #77.

Using the Memory Palace technique for the Periodic Table

Download this blank list of the Periodic Table.

Download Here!

Next to each element, think of a person or item that could help you visualize each element. For Titanium, I imagined Sia singing her hit Titanium on top of the Titanic. You could visualize the Titans from the movie Remember the Titans, the Tennessee football team, or the Titans from Greek mythology.

To make your illustrations more memorable, fully use your five senses! (Hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, and smelling) Be as specific as possible. Instead of imagining a¬†“dog” – imagine a German shepherd¬†wagging his tail. The crazier the better. I can visualize Jackson Pollock messily painting a picture of yellow pollen; splattering paint all over our piano (Polonium, 84). I can smell the herb plant on our countertop (Erbium, 68). Walking down the stairs to the next element, I make a point to¬†trip over¬†Snow White’s seven dwarves planting Nitrogen (Nitrogen, 7) so that I never¬†forget them.

After you have your images (or skip the above step and create images as you go around your house), walk¬†through your house and “place” each object. I started in our driveway, and after a few twists and turns, I ended up in our backyard pool. Place them in notable places around your house; in front of¬†your refrigerator, jumping on top of your trampoline, swimming in your kitchen sink, overflowing from your computer screen. The crazier the better!

To get a feel for how this works, here are the items I used, with their locations around our house. I made up my image mnemonics and locations as I went. My image adaptions and inspiration came from the incredible free app Memrise, which I used for this whole table. (I would highly recommend it.)

One great thing about Memory Palaces is that they are so memorable because they are personalized for every person. For example, I visualize the BFG, Big Friendly Giant from Ronald Dahl’s classic, for element #64, Gadolinium. “Gadol” is Hebrew for big or great, a language I love. My sister Lili’s old Chinese name is Lulu, so she was a natural fit for #71, Lutetium. For Hydrogen, element #1, Hydroplane, Hydrant, or maybe hydrogen peroxide may work best for you!

Memorizing the Periodic Table with My House

Starting outside

Locations: Basketball hoop in our driveway, behind our van in the garage, the top of our garden hose cart, front step

1 РHydrogen Рa bright red fire hydrant
2 – Helium – a comedian (He He) on a horse with two balloons
3 РLithium Р3 limes (lithium is connected to lemon lime sodas like 7-Up)
4 – Beryllium – a bear reading Iliad

Mud room, leading left to our basement

Locations: Mud room, top stair railing, middle of stairs, bottom of stairs

5 – Boron – 5 boring morons
6 – Carbon – a carbon diamond bracelet
7 – Nitrogen – Snow White’s seven dwarves planting nitrogen (Nitrogen is often used in fertilizers)
8 – Oxygen – an octopus on top of the stuffed bears at the bottom of our stairs

Basement

Locations: game table, hanging dart board, carpet aisle

9 – Fluorine – a cat (9 lives) brushing his teeth with fluoride (fluorine)
10 – Neon – a neon sign saying “Open at 10”
11 – Sodium – mounds of salt on the ground (Don’t step¬†in the salt!¬†Na!)

Desk space

Locations: on top of computer, wrapped around the desk, sitting in the desk’s chair

12 – Magnesium – melting chocolate Magnum bars
13 – Aluminum – a desk wrapped in aluminum foil
14 – Silicon – a silly 14 year old con man

Basement

Locations: pool table, movie cabinet, imaginary mini-pool beside movie cabinet, couch, giant fluffy bean bag, sitting on a windowsill leading to the outside of our house

15 – Phosphorus – 15 Vietnamese men eating pho (Vietnamese soup)
16 – Sulfur – my sister Hannah suffering (sulfuring) on her 16th birthday
17 – Chlorine – Hannah diving into a pool of just chlorine
18 ¬†– Argon – a car driving to college (when you’re 18 you “are-gone”)
19 – Potassium – a bunch of bananas exploding out of our giant bean bag
20 – Calcium – a glass of milk

Leading to the outside of our house through a small window

Locations: small pit, in the grass

21 – Scandium – scandalous beer bottles (drinking age: 21)
22 – Titanium – Sia singing her hit “Titanium” on the Titanic

Pool area

Locations: Right as you walk into the fence, the cement left of Vana White, a swing, hanging from our roof, below the Iron on the ground, a pit

23 – Vanadium – Vana White fromWheel of Fortune with Psalm 23 on the board
24 – Chromium – the Google Chrome symbol as a clock (24 hours in a day)
25 – Manganese – children receiving Manga (Japanese comics) for Christmas (December 25)
26 – Iron – an iron hanging from the roof (Fe = iron; male = man; therefore I am Iron Man)
27 –¬†Cobalt – cobalt blue bottles with Blue’s Clues on them
28 – Nickel – a pile of nickels

Back porch

Locations: Porch step, porch square 1, porch square 2, on top of our hot tub cover, pine tree close to hot tub (right), area left of hot tub (left), right outside the master bedroom window

29 РCopper РCopper from The Fox and the Hound running around, being Cute
30 Р Zinc Рthe kitchen sink
31 – Gallium – astronomer Galileo holding a cute Thirty-One thermal tote
32 – Germanium – a WWII German sniper saying, “3…2…”
33 –¬†Arsenic – an arson named Nic setting our pine tree on fire
34 – Selenium – Selena Gomez
35 – Bromine – two “bros” mining
36 – Krypton – Superman flying through the window

Master bathroom

Location: (Headed left towards the master bathroom) In a decorative basket on top of the toilet, in the bath tub, on the bathroom shelf, in the sink, on the towel rack

How to Memorize the Periodic Table 37-40

37 РRubidium РElf on a Shelf bathing, rub a dub dub!
38 – Strontium – a strong man/my dad lifting weights
39 – Yttrium – Y tree, um? (WWII began in 1939, and Yiddish was a common language among Jewish people at the time)
40 РZirconium РSher Khan from The Jungle Book, in an ark for 40 days and 4o nights
41 – Niobium – Niall from One Direction

Master bedroom

Location: In front of a small magnifying mirror, bedspread, on the TV screen, on the floor, headed outside bedroom door

42 – Molybdenum – Molly, a mole, in denim, admiring herself in a mirror
43 – Technetium – a giant tech network with 43 connections
44 – Ruthenium – Babe Ruth hitting his 44th home run
45 – Rhodium – a cowboy at a rodeo celebrating the end of WWII (1945)
46 – Palladium – the London Palladium

My bedroom

Location:¬†On top of TV, on the windowsill, on my bed, running across our dressers, on a¬†ladder leading towards my sisters’ beds

47 – Silver – an aging (Ag) silver wig
48 – Cadmium – Cadbury eggs
49 – Indium – an Indian wedding
50 – Tin – Belgian comic hero Tin Tin and his dog Snowy (Sn)
51 – Antimony – ants carrying money on a slab (Sb)

My (other) sister’s bedroom

Location: Nightstand, sister’s top bunk, sister’s bottom bunk, windowsill, underneath the¬†floor fan

52 – Tellurium – deck of cards; “tell your mum” there’s 52 cards in a deck
53 – Iodine – a feast, “I dine”
54 РXenon Рa yellow planet (Xanthos means yellow in Greek, and Xenon sounds alien-ish)
55 – Cesium – Julis Ceaser, who died at 55
56 – Barium – a coffin for Barry; “bury him”

Hallway, leading towards kitchen and dining room

Location: Hallway, next to kitchen cabinets, couch, fire place, behind dining room table, in front of dining room plants, on top of side decorative table, answering the telephone, in the refrigerator ice maker

How to Memorize the Periodic Table 62-65 copy

 

57 – Lanthanum – lan cables holding lanterns (I imagine the lanterns from the movie Tangled)
58 – Cerium – a cereal serum
59 – Praseodymium – the evil witch in Snow White saying “pray she dies”
60 – Neodymium – neon dynamite, ready to explode
61 – Promethium – “pro meth” – a backpack
62 – Samarium – the good Samaritan
63 – Europium – a map of Europe
64 – Gadolinium – the Big Friendly Giant from Ronald Dahl’s novel The BFG¬†(“gadol” is “big” in Hebrew)
65 – Terbium – Turbo from the Disney movie, with a speed sign; speed limit 65

Kitchen

Location: Countertop, stove, next countertop area, kitchen sinks, by coffee maker

How to Memorize the Periodic Table 66-70

66 РDysprosium РDystopian (666) poetry (prose)
67 РHolmium РSherlock Holmes, with his hat and magnifying glass (what comes after 6? 7 of course.)
68 – Erbium – an herb plant
69 –¬†Thulium – Christian singer Jonathan Thullin
70 РYtterbium Рotter mom (my mom was born in 1970)

Front hall bathroom

Location: Top of bathroom sink, on the toilet, in the bath tub, on the towel rack, walking out of the bathroom, path leading to the living room

How to Memorize the Periodic Table 71-75

71 – Lutetium – my sister Lili (formerly Lulu) playing the lute
72 – Hafnium – a cow (heifer)
73 – Tantalum – my younger sisters “tantalizing” each other
74 – Tungsten – a wolf (W) sticking out his tongue
75 – Rhenium – a rhino
76 – Osmium – a yellow brick road; on its way to Oz

Living room

Location: Chair, table, chair 2, table 2, couch, table 3, giant front windowsill, piano, coffee table, on top of the China cabinet in front of front door, our front door, our screen door

77 – Iridium – a rainbow with 7 colors (Iridium was named after the Greek goddess Iris, personification of rainbows)
78 – Platinum – a platinum plate
79 – Gold – Britt Nicole singing her pop hit “Gold” – surrounded with gold glitter and Aurora from Sleeping Beauty (Au)
80 – Mercury – the planet Mercury
81 – Thallium – thallium Stallion (they rhyme)
82 – Lead – giant pencil lead stuck in a PB and J sandwich (Pb)
83 – Bismuth – a bison and his wreath bis-muth (business)
84 – Polonium – artist Jackson Pollock painting pollen
85 – Astatine – “ask a teen” – a teen asking questions)
86 – Radon – “radio on” – a radio
87 – Francium – France’s flag draped revolutionary style; viva la France!
88 РRadium Рthe cover of Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

Front lawn

Location: Porch, tree, mailbox, giant pine tree, tree stump, running around tree stump

89 – Actinium –¬†acting mimes
90 – Thorium – Thor
91 – Protactinium – 911 protects
92 – Uranium – a uranium bullet
93 – Neptunium – a statue of Neptune, god of the sea
94 – Plutonium – Disney’s Pluto

Opposite side of our house

Location: Draped over our bedroom windows, searching through our bushes, a rose bush stand, a giant rock, standing on an air conditioner, in the middle of our lawn, (walking forward a bit) right before I hop over the fence into our back yard again

How to Memorize the Periodic Table 95-100

95 – Americium – an American flag
96 – Curium – Marie Curie
97 – Berkelium – Berkley college logo
98 РCalifornium Рa guy surfing in California
99 – Einsteinium – Albert Einstein
100 – Fermium – Fern from Charlotte’s Web; “fermium” written in a spider web
101 – Mendelevium –¬†Dmitri Mendeleev, father of the Periodic Table

The “back” portion of our backyard – left area

Location: right after I crawl underneath the fence, pine tree in the flower garden area, behind garden area,  small path leading out of garden area, sand box, play set swing, play set swing 2, trampoline, decorative chair in a landscaped circle

102 – Nobelium – the Nobel peace prize
103 – Lawrencium – actress Jennifer Lawrence hunting in a tree
104 – Rutherfordium – President Rutherford B. Hayes sitting in the Oval Office
105 – Dubnium – dubstep club music
106 – Seaborgium – a sea borg
107 – Bohrium – a bored boar falling asleep
108 РHassium РHassan from The Kite Runner
109 – Meitnerium – a meat nightmare of jumping meat
110 – Darmstadtium – a darn dorm stadium

The “back” portion of our backyard – right¬†area

Location: Tree, top of rabbit hutch, planting tomatoes in our vegetable garden, on top of shed, (bottom of shed) breaking into our shed, giant pine tree, landscaping beside pool, inside the pool

111 РRoentgenium Рan X-ray (Roentgen invented the X-ray, and the X-ray was originally called the Roengtan Ray)
112 – Copernicium – copper wires
113 – Ununtrium –¬†a nun¬†planting three tomatoes
114 – Flerovium –¬†flowers and eggs
115 – Ununpentium – you nun, repent! (for breaking into our shed)
116 – Livermorium – more liver
117 – Ununseptium – a toilet (septic)
118 – Ununoctium – another octopus (one one oct)

So that’s it! That is how a non-science fan learned to enjoy learning the Periodic table!

Extra Periodic Table Resources:

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About Samantha

Samantha is a teen entrepreneur and a former unsocialized homeschooler from Indiana, USA. Samantha is interested in WWII history, Israel, and politics. Her specialities are words, frugality, homeschooling, and procrastination. When not blogging, Samantha spends her time reading, trying to speak Hebrew, and wasting time on Pinterest.

7 thoughts on “How to Memorize the Periodic Table of the Elements (within a week)

  1. I love this! Thanks for a lovely new Memory System insight. I’ve used Lorayne & Lucas’ method for many years, but I like adding the Loci dimension into it. My grade school aged (homeschooled) daughter is working on memorizing the table using a song – she loves Chemistry! I love your blog – I read it regularly!

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