3-Li What’s your element?

This is the third game of the collection of 52 with the Periodic Table. It may be played in different ways: individually, as a workshop, in the classroom, at a Fair, …  This fact makes it especially suitable to attract children, youngsters and general public to increase awareness of chemcal elements and characteristics of the Perodic Table.

The current (2019) Periodic Table has 118 elements. A curiosity arises in the fact that three times this number equals the days of a Lunar year, i.e., 12 Lunar months (354 days). However, the Solar year is 11 days longer (365 or 366), and thus contains slightly more that three times the current number of chemical elements. This is the reason why in this game we use 122 elements: the 118 currently in the PT, and four others (atomic numbers 119 through 122), that will undoubtly be synthesized and studied soon.

Such a concidence (between the days of a Solar year and slightly more that 3 times the current number of chemical elements) is the basis of ths games, which relies upon associating each day of the year to a chemical element. Of course, one could enhance it by connecting it to smart procedures to calculate easily the day of the week corresponding to a given date, in this case someone’s birthdate, or to the calculation of the Moon’s phase.

The game “What’s your element” is thus an amusing association between a person’s birthday and the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements. Starting from the day and the month of the birthday (the year is unnecessary, association is the same for all years), one may determine its element, because 366 days fit three periodic tables having 122 elements each (note: 29 February corresponds to Nd, so this metal is likely to appear in only 25% of the cases the other elements result n).

In #tpqee association of an element to a birthdate is an attracive, entertaining way to communicate characteristics of a given element, but also a gentle, kind way to tag a person,

Sometimes, e.g. in a Fair, photos may be shot of people showing the element with a short, fun description of its propertes. Those images may be uploaded to a public server, of be sent privately. We have already collected a fair amount of them i the specific website with photos about #tpqee.

How can someone find his/her element?

The easiest way is to check the Periodic Table of Birthdates where one may find the Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements, where each box carries the Atomic Symbol along with the three calendar dates that correspond to that very element.


One may also check the Perpetual Calendar: which element corresponds to each day of the month/year:

This Table and calendar with the dates-elements equivalencies may be printed (or better, have it laminated), watch it on a screen, or create 122 suitable cards with information of each element and the three dates connected to it. In genearl, it is a better idea to use the Periodic Table of Birthdates, laminated at A3 or A4 sizes.

As a third option, one may determine the element by browsing or projecting interactively the Element Calculator (mobile-ready too). One may also browse the new #tpqee website (in Catalan). As mentioned above, this website also gathers images shot at Fairs and workshops. It is fun to realize how several elements bring about a fair number of photos, while others have no photo yet.

Use at a Science Fair

Science Fairs are a good place to play ths game. For instance one may hang a Periodic Table on the wall. Every participant signs a post-it sticker, writes his/her e-mail and name, and attaches it in the proper element box corresponding to his/her birthdate.  This allows to send them promotional messages on our ongoing projectes, and inform them about our web posts. Moreover, a booklet containing a sheet for each element may be used,  with a couple of fun sentences about he properties of the corresponding element.  For instance:

If you are hydrogen:

  • You have a lot of energy and a strong character, despite being the smallest and simplest element.
  • Remember that you are number 1!

Or if you are element 122:

  • Marinov’s team claims it has seen you playing along with Thorium, but many people do not believe it at al.
  • People make fun of you with such a name (Unbibium), but it will changed in the future.

Such sentences may be read out loud by the participant, or by the person in charge of the workshop. Indeed, this is a pedagogical resource: preparing (a few) sentences on the chemical elements. In our case, the #tpqee team has already set up a sentence booklet; they can be provided upon request.

After attaching post-its to the Periodic Table, a photo may b shot with the person involved, who holds the booklet with the element symbol and the fun sententes on the element. This team shoots pictures of people with a green chroma background (IPad: app GreenScreen) so we may edit pictures by providing a an awsome background, e.g., colorful crystals.

When the Fair is over, it is convenient to take a picure of the Periodic Table with plenty of post-its – and realize how the distribution is not at all uniform (if the number of participants is not very large, of course).

Use at a lecture, workshop, and classroom.

One may project the Periodic Table of Birthdates in a large screen, and ask the audience to check their element. Afterwards, one may group participants in blocs s, p, d, or f. One can even check for alcaline people, halogens, metals, noble gases, lantanides, etc. This is useful, of course, to build up groups. In any case, this increases familiarization with the Periodic Table, its form, its properties, etc.

Workshop for indepndent activity or learning on your own

One can ask to search characteristics of the element corresponding to a given participant, or we can ask to design a very appealing Periodic Table of Birthdates, we may suggest participants to gather according to periods or groups, etc… imagination is the only limit for the use of the correspondence in #tpqee between Periodic Table and Calendar.

Further ideas

With enough tim available, one might desing badges as a gift to people participating n #tpqee, as a function of the element associated to his/her birthday.

#tpqee, as mentioned above, may be combined with algorithms to mentally calculate the weekday correspoding to the birthdate, or the phase of the Moon corresponding to a given date. The first calculation is rather easy with the method created by John Conway: Doomsday. The second calculation is quite easy provided the code for the year is provided.


When using social networks online, it is reccommended to tag this activity with hastag #tpqee,


This game has been developed within Project “Magic & Science”, and the special collaboration of Dr. Josep Duran, starting from an idea arosen during a brainstorming meeting at Creeative Space Pakoh in @udgciencies. This game was first played during the @univgirona Open Day in spring 2016. Licensed CC-BY-SA-NC by team members of projcts #magsci FCT-14-9228 and FCT-15-10607.