Progress Update on Memorizing the Periodic Table of Elements


I successfully memorized the first three elements with their corresponding atomic number, name, and atomic weight. I felt a little overwhelmed after the third one, for some reason. The previous day I successfully memorized 25 random words without stress, so I’m not sure why I felt overwhelmed. Today I will try to memorize the other seven elements I was supposed to do yesterday. I got a great nights’ sleep and ate very well, so I should be able to do it.

Before you dive into my imagination, I want to point out that I often intermix Number-Shape, Number-Rhyme, and Phonetic “Major” Memory Systems (also known as the Peg System or technique) with the Substitute Word Technique in order to keep myself from getting bored with the same memory images. For example, if I always used the word-image “ice” for 0, I might get bored by always having to use it. On the other hand, I will sometimes use the same image over a hundred sequential times in combination with other images if I’m using a mnemonic index system. I talk about that in other posts - on assigning tens and hundreds places to different Number-Shape-Rhyme and Phonetic Systems.

1) Hydrogen
I used a journey of my neighborhood where I jog to place the first element of hydrogen on my front yard. I saw a small hydrogen balloon with eyes and mouth and personality, with a tie around it’s neck (because 1 is the atomic number and for the phonetic “major” system for numbers, tie is 1 for me.) Then to memorize the atomic weight of hydrogen - which is 1.008 -, I borrowed from the Number-Shape System to see a candle dribbling a basketball (that represents a period “dot” for me). Then suddenly superman flies down (0 rhymes with hero) and punches the candle, starts to fly away down my street and a giant block of ice lands on him (here I switched back to the phonetic system and used “ice” for another 0 in the atomic number. Then superman broke out of the ice and grabbed a loving bride in his arms (8 is wife in my phonetic “major” system). I forgot to mention. I also imagined myself trying to hit the hydrogen balloon with a metal sword, but it bounced off and flew away (that way I know it is one of the “nonmetals” on the periodic table. That is how I memorized hydrogen.

2) Helium
Then to memorize the noble gas of helium, I walked a little further down my street in my imagination and saw in front of my neighbors’ house lying on the ground a large red party balloon with eyes, mouth, and arms, lying on the ground as a nurse tended him (the helium “party balloon” is healing from a wound because helium sounds like “healing him” to me.) So I bow down deeply to this noble element - because bowing is a sign of respect to nobility, that way I know it is one of the noble gases. To remember it has an atomic number 2, I use the phonetic “major” system to imagine a large honey jug with eyes, arms, legs, etc., shooting an arrow at me (the atomic weight of helium is 4.0026 and arrow is my phonetic “major” system number for 4). Then I pull out a basketball to block the arrow (for the period - the dot between 4 and 0026) And I then throw two large blocks of ice at the honey guy (for the two 0’s, remember, as I said earlier, that ice is also my phonetic “majors” system image for 0) and he hits one of them with a giant ruler (because for me, inch is my phonetic “major” system word for 26, and I use the symbol of a giant ruler to remember that).

3) Lithium
I move on to the house around the corner to see a large metal Elk being punched by Muhammad Ali ( that way I know this is an Alkali metal - because Alkali sounds to me kind of like “Elk Ali” except with an eeeeee sound on the end is different). Then, I see a man-sized Lithium battery standing there eating ham off a plate (because ham is my phonetic “major” system number for 3, which is the atomic number for lithium). Now to memorize the atomic weight number for lithium (which is 6.94), I suddenly see a witch appear above him, flying on a broomstick (witch is my phonetic “major” system symbol for the number 6, which is the first atomic weight number for lithium. Then, she casts a spell on him, turning the lithium battery man into a basketball (that represents the dot, the period, for me in the number 6.94). Then, suddenly a bear jumps out of the bushes and grabs the flying witch, pulling her down and tearing her to pieces (94 represents a bear, for me, in my phonetic “major” system.)

If anyone else has any comments about how they memorized the elements, please feel free to chime in and make suggestions. Enthusiasm is contagious. The more we reciprocate on our use of skills, the more we give, the more we get.


You might have already answered that elsewhere, but is there a reason why you didn’t learn a better number system such as the Pao before memorizing the periodic table?

Compressing 6 decimals into only one image seems like something which you could for every element of the table, therefore would be a very good investment , no?


You might find it easier if you chunked the elements by family. For example, memorize the rightmost column Helium, Neon, Argon, Krypton, Xenon, Radon which are known as “the noble gases, VIIIA (or 18)” . All these elements have certain similarites and regularities and knowing why their atomic numbers are 2, 10, 18, 36, 54, 86 is probably more useful than their atomic weights.


Excellent question Dargonesti! I actually had not done much research on the PAO system yet, but after you mentioned it I looked into it. It does seem a little more advantages to use, however I’m not yet fully convinced it is a lot more effective. Perhaps I am very wrong indeed on that point. I will continue to explore. I stopped using the journey I was on to try a different method of locality. So for now, I have just been slotting each element into pigeonholes that I’ve assigned in an artificial memory palace based on M. Gregor von Feinaigle’s book The New Art of Memory. I actually see all the images for each element interacting with each other in various ways for that one pigeonhole of each. So for helium, I see all the images interacting in various memorable ways and me interacting with them as well.


Thanks DLyons for your comments and insights on this as well! Ya I have been also making sure to assign an image remind cue for each family they are in. So for the noble gases I see those images wearing a crown, for the Alkali metals I see an Elk being punched by Ali. But you are suggesting that I memorize them in order of column family in order, instead of just memorizing them one after the other by atomic number? Hmmm… I might try that. It might be a lot easier. I will have rearrange the order I placed the images in, but I could still keep the same images. I’m also memorizing the exact number of electrons per shell for each element.

My motivation for doing this is three fold: 1) I want to take expand my career options in the near future, and acquiring more knowledge about the sciences will significantly enhance my ability to pass the college classes. 2) I am trying to get free weekly Memory Club meetups going and I want to be able to impress college students with my memory for very difficult material, rather than just memorizing decks of playing cards. 3) I want to get much better at mnemonics and increase my creative thinking ability significantly. Getting a high quality University degree seems to be impossible for me until I overcome the extreme boredom I get from rote learning in college, and my inability to remember difficult material for tests. I want to get really good at memorizing difficult and even boring things, because it seems that is the only way I will ever get a quality degree, and then a quality career.

I also just found this wikipedia page and other webpages for many different acrostics for memorizing different things in chemistry. I might use a separate memory room to learn many of these as well, after I memorize the entire periodic table of elements in chronological order by atomic number.