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Screen capture from the TED Ed video “The genius of Mendeleev's periodic table”

Screen capture from the TED Ed video “The genius of Mendeleev's periodic table” by Lou Serico

STEM in Context

The Genius of Mendeleev's Table

Let's Talk Science
Format
Video Text
Readability
8.12

Summary

Dmitri Mendeleev’s version of the periodic table was brilliant - find out why!
The genius of Mendeleev's periodic table (2012) by Lou Serico (TED Ed) (4:24 min.).

In 1869, a Siberian chemist named Dmitri Mendeleev invented the Periodic Table of Elements. Many of us know it simply as the periodic table. You have probably seen the periodic table before. It may even be hanging on the wall of your chemistry class.

What is the periodic table?

The Periodic Table of Elements is an arrangement of the chemical elements in table form. The table is arranged into seven periods and 18 groups. The rows are called periods, and the columns are called groups. 

Image to help you remember that groups run vertically and periods run horizontally
Here is an image to help you remember that groups run vertically and periods run horizontally (© 2019 Let’s Talk Science).

In the table, elements are arranged based on their atomic number, electron configurations, and chemical properties. You can also use the table to quickly find an element’s symbol and atomic mass. Elements on the left-hand side of the periodic table are generally metals. Elements on the right-hand side are generally non-metals

What is so special about Mendeleev’s table?

Mendeleev was not the first person to try to organize the elements. Other scientists had listed the elements. Some of these scientists had even grouped elements with similar properties together. So why was Mendeleev’s idea the one that lasted? 

Unlike those other scientists, Mendeleev predicted that there would be more chemical elements to come. And he was right! Today, the periodic table has 118 elements. But in Mendeleev’s time, scientists only knew of 63 elements. 

When Mendeleev devised the periodic table, he left plenty of blank spaces and dashes. For example, he set aside a place for eka-aluminum. This place was one step away from aluminum. No one had discovered this element yet. But Mendeleev was able to predict many of its properties based on the properties of the elements surrounding it. 

Sure enough, a few years later, the French chemist Paul-Émile Lecoq de Boisbaudran discovered gallium. Look at your periodic table. Where is gallium? That’s right, one step away from aluminum! And it turned out that Mendeleev’s predictions about the properties of this element were spot-on! He also predicted the existence of at least 5 other elements. He even predicted a very rare element called technetium!

Did you know? 

Long after his death, Dmitri Mendeleev had an element named after him: Mendelevium, atomic number 101.

Starting Points

Connecting and Relating
  • Have you ever wished you could make a new discovery? Explain.
  • Do you know anyone who has made a new discovery? What was it?
  • Can you name a scientist whose name has been used in naming an element on the periodic table? Who? 
  • Have you ever discovered something you thought was new? Explain.
Connecting and Relating
  • Have you ever wished you could make a new discovery? Explain.
  • Do you know anyone who has made a new discovery? What was it?
  • Can you name a scientist whose name has been used in naming an element on the periodic table? Who? 
  • Have you ever discovered something you thought was new? Explain.
Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment
  • Do you think money should be invested in the attempt to discover new elements? Why/why not?
  • What might be the benefits of discovering a new element?
Relating Science and Technology to Society and the Environment
  • Do you think money should be invested in the attempt to discover new elements? Why/why not?
  • What might be the benefits of discovering a new element?
Exploring Concepts
  • How was Mendeleev’s organization of the periodic table beneficial to scientists? Explain.
  • Why is the word “periodic” included in the name “periodic table”? Explain.
  • Prior to Mendeleev, what other forms did the periodic table take?
Exploring Concepts
  • How was Mendeleev’s organization of the periodic table beneficial to scientists? Explain.
  • Why is the word “periodic” included in the name “periodic table”? Explain.
  • Prior to Mendeleev, what other forms did the periodic table take?
Nature of Science/Nature of Technology
  • How is the Periodic Table of Elements a good example of how scientific knowledge progresses? Explain.
  • Why do you think Mendeleev decided to organize the elements in such a way as to ensure spaces were left for new discoveries? Explain.
Nature of Science/Nature of Technology
  • How is the Periodic Table of Elements a good example of how scientific knowledge progresses? Explain.
  • Why do you think Mendeleev decided to organize the elements in such a way as to ensure spaces were left for new discoveries? Explain.
Teaching Suggestions
  • This video and article can be used to support teaching and learning of Chemistry and History & World Studies related to the periodic table. Concepts introduced include Periodic Table of Elements, chemical elements, periods, groups, atomic number, metals and nonmetals.
  • Before watching the video and reading the article, teachers could introduce this topic by engaging students in a discussion to activate their prior knowledge related to elements and the periodic table. Teachers could have students engage in a think-pair-share to address such questions as “what are elements?,” “how are elements discovered?,” “how do elements get their names?,” “what is the most important element?,” “what is the most valuable element?,” etc. Students could refer to a copy of the periodic table as a reference as they discuss these questions.
  • After this initial discussion, students could view the video “The Genius of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table.”
  • After viewing the video, students in small groups could do a  Video Review learning strategy to gather more information from the video and consolidate understanding. Ready-to-use Video Review reproducibles can be downloaded in [Google doc] and [PDF] formats.
  • Teachers could then start a class discussion about the importance of having a universal organization for such important discoveries and how a common reference table such as this benefits science.
  • To conclude, students could complete an Exit Slip learning strategy to consolidate their understanding of the video and topics discussed. Teachers could collect and review the answers provided to assess the depth of student understanding on this topic. The ready-to-use Exit Slip reproducible for this video can be downloaded in [Google doc] and [PDF] formats.
Teaching Suggestions
  • This video and article can be used to support teaching and learning of Chemistry and History & World Studies related to the periodic table. Concepts introduced include Periodic Table of Elements, chemical elements, periods, groups, atomic number, metals and nonmetals.
  • Before watching the video and reading the article, teachers could introduce this topic by engaging students in a discussion to activate their prior knowledge related to elements and the periodic table. Teachers could have students engage in a think-pair-share to address such questions as “what are elements?,” “how are elements discovered?,” “how do elements get their names?,” “what is the most important element?,” “what is the most valuable element?,” etc. Students could refer to a copy of the periodic table as a reference as they discuss these questions.
  • After this initial discussion, students could view the video “The Genius of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table.”
  • After viewing the video, students in small groups could do a  Video Review learning strategy to gather more information from the video and consolidate understanding. Ready-to-use Video Review reproducibles can be downloaded in [Google doc] and [PDF] formats.
  • Teachers could then start a class discussion about the importance of having a universal organization for such important discoveries and how a common reference table such as this benefits science.
  • To conclude, students could complete an Exit Slip learning strategy to consolidate their understanding of the video and topics discussed. Teachers could collect and review the answers provided to assess the depth of student understanding on this topic. The ready-to-use Exit Slip reproducible for this video can be downloaded in [Google doc] and [PDF] formats.

Learn more

Dynamic Periodic Table

A dynamic and interactive periodic table by Michael Dayah that provides information about the elements, including properties, orbitals, and isotopes.

There's More Than One Periodic Table. Here Are Some Designs You've Never Seen (2019)

Article by Jacinta Bowler that depicts some early attempts at organizing the elements of the periodic table.

How the periodic table went from a sketch to an enduring masterpiece (2019)

Article Tom Siegfried by detailing the history of Mendeleev and the periodic table in great depth.

The Newest Elements on the Periodic Table (2016)

Learn about the four elements added in 2016 with this Let’s Talk Science article.

References

The Royal Society of Chemistry. (n.d.). Development of the periodic table.

Vincent, B. B. (2019, May 23). Dmitri Mendeleev. Encyclopaedia Britannica.