You’re going to want this resource: Periodic Table Puzzle

I have been using this resource to introduce the Periodic Table for over 10 years. Students need the following basic understanding of matter prior to the activity: matter is made of atoms. Elements are all one kind of atom. Atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. The proton defines which element an atom is.

Okay, next step. Prep the kids for the activity. Everyone is getting the same puzzle. (I use groups of 2-3, but 4 works okay too). You must arrange the puzzle how I want it arranged. You’re not done until I say you’re done. You must use every piece. One piece is missing on purpose. They do not go in a line. Winning team gets a pack of cupcakes each. And GO!

Havoc erupts. Everyone is SURE that THEY will be first. Talking, discussion, processing. Oh, it is fantastic. Everyone is involved. They’re invested. They WILL get this first. The pieces are, after all, just colors, shapes, and numbers.


It’s pretty glorious.

Once everyone is done and bragging rights have been earned… the discussion.

Look at your puzzle. What is the same about each row? Each column? What piece is missing? What color would it be? What shape would it be? What numbers might be on it? How do you know? What would have happened if we had used the bottom number instead? Would it still work? Why or why not?

That is when your students will teach YOU how the periodic table was arranged. You will re-visit this activity for weeks after it. I laminated my pieces and put strip magnet on the back and keep them on my board.

Your students won’t want to leave class. They will go home and tell their parents of this amazing activity they did in science class today. When your principal stops by and asks about the magnets on your board, you’ll have one of your students tell them what and why.

Here’s the link again… Periodic Table Puzzle


CrazyScienceLady, Lisa

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