Reviewing the Periodic Table Using Mystery Puzzles

boarding pass

Last year, I wanted to create a fun way to review Periodic Table concepts with my students instead of using the same review worksheet I had students complete in the past. I personally enjoy Escape the Classroom activities, but I could not find one that fit with my Chemistry class content.

So, I decided to make a game of my own. I thought it would be fun to solve a mystery whose clues could be used to spell out the name of a country. I decided to create five puzzles to fit within my class time of fifty minutes. Therefore, I had to determine the names of countries that could be spelled using the periodic table and whose names could be made out as a result of five puzzles.

This five puzzle mystery aligns with my chemistry curriculum after instruction on the properties of elements and electron configurations. I use this mystery as a review to prepare for assessments over the properties of elements, symbols on the periodic table and the difference between groups and periods. Also incorporated within the puzzles are basic trends such as the number of subatomic particles, mass number, melting point, and other characteristics of specific elements.

My students forgot that they were reviewing for a chemistry test because they were having fun trying to solve the puzzles. During one of my classes, one group of students was so excited to complete the puzzles before other groups that they cheered and jumped for joy as if they really had just saved the world. They also thought the “airline tickets” I printed for the country for the correctly solved puzzles were an exciting touch. I didn’t tell the students if they were correct or not, I simply handed them their boarding passes.

I have shared this activity with my colleague that teaches AP Chemistry as a quick review of material they should already know from their previous participation in a Chemistry class. They too enjoyed to puzzles. I did find, however, a few AP students tried to cut corners by trying to solve for the country before collecting all of their clues first. Needless to say, they were not correct in identifying the country and did not solve the mystery.