I‘m looking for a good app to help learn the periodic table for my middle schoolers! Any suggestions? —Reader question via Facebook
The coolest thing about the periodic table, in my geeky opinion, is that it’s not just a laundry list of elements that make up everything on earth. It’s actually a puzzle, with pieces that fit together logically. So I love the idea of using tech to help kids recognize those different pieces and understand how they go together. Much more fun than mere memorization, right?
To start, we have a couple of highly-rated free periodic table apps for you that provide a basic overview, including elements sorted by group, period, and family.
The Periodic Table app by Socratica is a smart option for Android; in fact we included it in our roundup of the best science apps for kids in 2013, and it still holds up. It lets you click on individual elements to learn more about their properties, like phase of matter, melting and boiling points, and electron configuration.
Similarly, for iOS users there’s the free Quick Periodic Table of the Elements app which is a top choice in the app store, with an impressive 5-star rating from hundreds of users. You don’t see that a lot, especially with free apps. Now granted, some of the details in both this and Socratica’s app may be more than middle schoolers need to know, but it can never hurt for them to be familiar with terminology when high school chemistry rolls around.
For a periodic table app that’s more experience than reference, check out the NOVA Elements iPad app by PBS, which we’ve lauded before. It’s also free, which is pretty amazing considering all the cool info it contains about each element — like how white gold is a compound of gold and palladium, or that mercury is still used in CFLs. You can even “build” with the various elements and construct molecules, from caffeine to the components of DNA. So cool.
While NOVA Elements doesn’t include all the nitty gritty details of each element’s properties, like the other two apps above do, it’s actually a lot more fun to explore, especially for kids who are just starting to learn about chemistry.
Finally, if you’re looking for a classroom resource that can be shared among multiple students, consider The Elements app (also at very top) by Theodore Gray, columnist at Popular Science magazine. We’ve gushed over this super cool periodic table app as one of our best science apps for kids, in spite of its price tag, because it’s just that awesome.
The Elements is more like a huge interactive ebook than an app — which accounts for the $13.99 cost — combining all those reference details of the periodic table, powered by the Wolfram|Alpha knowledge engine. But it’s the stunning images and engaging stories about each element that really bring it home.