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How the Periodic Table Challenge Works
Interactive Learning Paradigms Incorporated
Intro and Philosophy
The Periodic Table Challenge is an interactive web-based teaching resource that features a blank periodic table. There are two versions - the Classic Challenging Version in which the user has to complete a blank table before receiving a score and the Easier Instant Version in which the user receives feedback immediately after filling in each element.
I designed the Classic Version for my upper division courses in which the student must know the periodic table. I didn't say "memorize", although that's what it may appear to be. But in order to write essays you have to know the alphabet, right? If you are attending a chemistry seminar and someone mentions an iron-containing compound, you have to know that Fe is in 8th column over, has some chemistry similar to Ru and has 5 d-electrons if it is in the 3+ valence state.
OK, here's how it works
The Classic Challenging Version:
- The Periodic Challenge page contains two very important components which may not be immediately obvious. First, the page is an HTML form which means that it is configured to send any data that you might enter to our web server. Second, the blank periodic table is displayed. The table you see is simply an HTML table, so it is pretty easy to construct. The boxes where you enter your answers are form input fields which permit only 0 to 2 characters of input. Everything up to this point you can check out on your own by viewing the source document from your browser.
Note: The next step is new as of September 2004. See the Revision History below on how our web server used to handle the grading task.
The Easier Instant Version:
In addition, this version sports an auto-hints feature. When this is turned on, you'll receive a popup dialog if you have guessed wrong more than 3 or more times on a particular element. The hint is the first letter of the element if the element symbol has two letters. If the element symbol has only one letter, the hint tells you so.
Another nice touch in this version is that it tells you the number of incorrect attempts you have made. After all, anyone can get all 112 elements, but only the best will do it without making any mistakes. I have also added a timer which stops when the table is correctly completed. This enables our visitors to have a contest to see who can complete the table with the fewest errors in the shortest amount of time. To make the determination of a winner fair, I suggest adding a predefined time penalty (5 or 10 seconds) for each incorrect answer; this is a feature I can add at a later date.
- Future Plans. Some optional variations we may add in future releases include:
- Multiple choice - each cell in the table will have 5 choices in a pull-down menu.
- Drag and drop - we give you the elements, you drag them to where they belong.
- Quick Peek - a periodic table will flash up for a brief instant each time you press a button.
- Suggestions? Send them along to us.
- September 3, 2018. 2.2b.4 - Added Nh, Fl, Mc, Lv, Ts, and Og. There's really not much point to having these elements here except for completeness sake. It's not like we do any chemistry with them. Still, they do make for good trivia questions and add to our alphabet for making clever t-shirts using elemental symbols.
- July 27, 2010. 2.2b.3 - Added a Start Over feature to the Easier Instant Version. This resets the scores, table, and timer back to zero, alleviating some obscure keystrokes that Firefox required. Also changed the timer to start when you enter your first answer rather than when the page loads.
- July 13, 2010. 2.2b.2 - Finally got around to adding Ds, Rg, and Cn...not like you can put any of these in a vial, though.
- March 12, 2007. 2.2b.1 - fixed score/time display issue in Easier Instant Version with Firefox.
- November 9, 2003. Version 2.1 released. We upgraded to a dual 1 GHz G4 server running Mac OS X. This forced us to replace the Hypercard grading stack with an AppleScript application because, for reasons nobody understands, Apple Computer elected to never release a Mac OS X-compliant version of HyperCard.
There are no fundamental changes in this version, although the grading response should be noticeably faster.
- June 9, 2000. Version 2.0.2. Moved from the U of KY web site to ILPI. Different comments are now included for each score. Put a box around the entire table. Added the IUPAC-approved names for elements up to 109 (up from 103).
- October 11, 1999 Version 2.0.1. Made sure an HTTP header is sent with the reply, correcting an error with certain browser/firewall combinations. Fixed a few typos in the hints.
- May, 7, 1999. Version 2.0 debuted. As originally designed, the Periodic Table Challenge did not inform you which elements were correct and incorrect. I prefer this method because it provides additional review by making you figure out which elements are incorrect. However, in Version 2.0 you know have the option of checking the Novice Mode box to reveal your errors. This could be useful when you are first starting out or if you are practicing but don't have a periodic table to consult.
- June 27, 1997. I added a feature which allows you to ask for one random hint or piece of trivia with your score. Some day in the future I'd like to program in a way of returning hints such as "you are missing the element named for the god called Tantalus" or "you have the most radioactive element where the largest element should be" etc., but that's a lot more work.
Selected Viewer Comments
How well do people like the PTC? Here are some examples. If you have kudos or comments, send them along to us. We'd love to hear them and maybe we'll even post them here.
[The Periodic Table Challenge] [ILPI Home Page]
This page was last updated Monday, September 3, 2018 and has been visited 68031 times since its birth on 08/30/96.
This page and the Periodic Table Challenge are copyright 1995-2021 by Rob Toreki. All rights reserved.