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How to Read the Periodic Table

To keep track of the elements, scientists use the Periodic Table, a chart that shows all the elements. (Click here for a pdf version of the Periodic Table.) Scientists can quickly find out basic information about an element just by looking at the Periodic Table.

There are over 100 known atoms — one for each of the known elements.

On the periodic table, elements are listed in order of increasing atomic number. 

Elements in the same row are in the same period. This means they have similar physical properties, such as how well they bend or conduct electricity.

the periodic table with a column highlighted and a row highlighted

Elements in the same column are in the same group. This means they react with other elements in similar ways.

Here's a close-up look at the carbon square from the Periodic Table.

Elements in the same row are in the same period. This means they have similar physical properties, such as how well they bend or conduct electricity.

the periodic table with a row and a column highlighted

Elements in the same column are in the same group. This means they react with other elements in similar ways.

Here's a close-up look at the carbon square from the Periodic Table.

Atomic Number: the number of protons in the nucleus (which is the same as the number of electrons in the atom). 

carbon as shown on the periodic table with the number 6, symbol C, and name Carbon

Symbol: a one or two letter symbol that represents the element. These internationally-used symbols are abbreviations for the common name or the Latin name of the element. 

Name: the element's common name.

Atomic Number: the number of protons in the nucleus (which is the same as the number of electrons in the atom). 

carbon as shown on the periodic table with the number 6, symbol C, and name Carbon

Symbol: a one or two letter symbol that represents the element. These internationally-used symbols are abbreviations for the common name or the Latin name of the element. 

Name: the element's common name.

Atomic Number: the number of protons in the nucleus (which is the same as the number of electrons in the atom). 

carbon rectangle as shown on the periodic table with 6 for number on the table, C as the symbol, and the name Carbon

Name: the element's common name.

Symbol: a one or two letter symbol that represents the element. These internationally-used symbols are abbreviations for the common name or the Latin name of the element.