A Comprehensive Guide to Remember Reactivity Series
In this article, I will make an attempt to provide a simple memorization technique to remember reactivity Series. As per Wikipedia,’ the reactivity series or activity series is an empirical series of metals, in order of “reactivity” from highest to lowest. It is used to summarize information about the reactions of metals with acids and water, single displacement reactions and the extraction of metals from their ores.’
The metals/elements in the below diagram are listed according to most reactive to least reactive and the elements which react with water, the ones which react with acids and the ones with oxygen and finally which don’t react with anything.
Since the name of the metals/elements are abstract and do not trigger any vivid mental images (there could be exceptions like gold and silver) we will use substitute words and linking/association system to remember the reactivity series.
|Reactivity Series||Substitute Words|
|Magnesium||Make Knees Swim|
|Aluminum||A Loom in ham|
|Iron||Iron (Cloth Iron)|
|Tin||Tin (Can of eatables/Tin Sheet)|
|Mercury||More Curry/Planet Mercury|
Go through the above table to get familiar with the names of the metals/elements and also the substitute words. You have to get so familiar with the both that next time when you see the zinc, the substitute word sing should immediately pop up. Now don’t get overwhelmed. Going through the list 5 times will do the magic!
Once you have done the above exercise, take a 15 minute break! When you are back check whether you remember the substitutes.
The memory techniques that I am going to teach here will help you to remember the reactivity series forwards and backwards. You will be able to remember which elements react with what and also how they are extracted! Learning these techniques will fuel all sorts of innovation and I am sure, You will come with your own method to learn the reactivity series.
Cutting to the chase, we will now use the liking system and story method to associate/link the substitute words with one another.
Linking System and Story Method:
We need a starting point to learn the series and we will use reaction (Reactivity). I imagine a chemical reaction in the lab, the test tubes burst and all kinds of colorful, smoky elements start bubbling out and they make strange sounds and suddenly you spot huge amount of cash swimming in those slimy chemicals (Caesium-cash swim) and the cash reach a out of this world dam which is adorned with rubies all over (Rubidium) and people throw pots full of ash (Potassium) (Like in Indian Tradition, Hindus don’t bury the dead but burn them and they sprinkle the ash in river bodies) and you see far away, some is collecting that ash to make soda and that soda (Sodium) is grabbed by Lee’s team (Bruce Lee) because it is illegal and then the whole team starts burying the ham that they got along (Barium) and they start developing muscles and their team becomes very very strong (Strontium) and suddenly a gal is swimming (Calcium), swiftly floating over the water but she is making her knees swim (Magnesium) and then a huge loom which has gotten obese because it is sitting on a hug lump of ham, eating it all the time (Aluminum) comes floating but it is outsized by Titanic (Titanium) and on Titanic, the crew are wearing mangoes on their knees (Manganese) and they start singing vociferously (Zinc) and irritated by this, a huge ferocious crow comes and sits and to everyone’s surprise, it cries ‘meow’ and not ‘caw’ (Chromium) and the crow is given a scare of his life by giving it a taste of hot iron on one of its legs (Iron) and from nowhere hundreds of cats jump in who are riding on iron boxes (Cadmium) and the dodge the ball thrown by the cow (Cobalt) and seeing all this, the Knee makes a call (Nickel) and the knee gets hit by millions of tins (Tin) and the tins reflect a silvery light all over (Lead) and because of the light, aunty becomes suddenly alert, who is carrying a hug sack of money (Antimony) and aunty is picked by a bus which is riding on a mat like Aladdin (Bismuth) and this mat bangs a Copter (copper) and loses control and reaches another planet named Mercury (Mercury) and on Mercury, there is silver (Silver) and gold jewellery all over (Gold) and in one corner a nun is sitting and plaiting her hair(Platinum).
Go through the above story and picture it like a movie. Make the images as ridiculous as possible. For example, the crow cries ‘meow’ instead of ‘caw’. Make it humorous. See the crew laughing their hearts -out, see the embarrassed face of the crow. Exaggerate, make the images illogical. Seeing a normal crow won’t work. See a crow which is tattooed on its head or something else. Use your imagination and creativity. Making the images sexual will also help greatly. I am going to leave out the details .
Once you are familiar with both substitutes and the story, check whether you will remember the name of the elements. For example, what comes when you see the chemical reaction in the lab, cash swimming and it triggers caesium and then they swim to a dam which is adorned with rubys and it triggers rubidium!
Similarly work backwards and you will be amazed!
The next challenge it figure out a way to learn which elements react with what and how they are extracted. This is pretty easy.
The elements till calcium react with water and electrolysis is used for their extraction. Imagine a huge barrel of water being splashed (water) on the gal swimming and she is electrocuted.
Now the question is how does the above association help to remember the reaction and extraction?
Well, simple. Use your normal memory to get the picture of water splashing on gal swimming which should remind you that calcium reacts with water and then electrocution should remind you of electrolysis. From calcium work backwards-who saw the girl swimming-strong team (strontium) and like-wise.
Remember, the illumination of light because of the light reflecting from tins? Now draw a mental picture where the light starts diminishing because someone is pouring acid on it and to counter-attack acid, you pour coke from a huge bottle. Ridiculous isn’t it. But if you remember, the substitute word for lead is light. So lead reacts with acid and it is extracted by smelting coke. Now work backwards from lead to calcium and you will get all the elements/metals that react with coke and which are smelted using coke.
Finally picture a plaiting nun (Platinum) wearing oxygen (Oxidizing) mask and pours acid (acid) and she is also heating (head) something in a big cauldron.
The above mental scene should give you the key words-Platinum, Oxidizing acid and heat. Work backwards from platinum to lead and it will give you the elements that would react with oxidizing acids and ones which can be extracted using heat.
I believe, the above article has helped you to learn, remember and memorize the reactivity series. If not, at least has provoked you to develop your own system to remember the reactivity table. One can draw inspiration from anything, but the question is how well he executes his plan.
Experiment with my system, come up with your own substitute words, mental images and improvise and see what it does to your memory.