The periodic spiral of the elements

traditional periodic table

In working with my students’ perceptions of the periodic table, I wrapped a periodic table around a roll of paper towels. My attempt was to get them to realize that the Alkali metals are actually right next to the Noble gasses. I wasn’t sure if it was working, but in our review leading up to the finals one girl mentioned that it was a spiral–so I guess it’s helping some students.

Others have done this in a flat design (e.g. see P. Fraundorf’s page showing many great designs), but I wanted to show the idea in 3D.

Below is a video showing a periodic table spinning around on a turntable. I recommend downloading the video and using VLC Media Player, Quicktime, or some other viewer that allows you to scroll the video back and forth.

The table I used comes from, a great resource for online and printable periodic tables.

Here are a couple other 3D ‘tables’ that email list folks have let me know about:

Excel spreadsheet for calculating molar masses and percent composition

screenshot of spreadsheet

Over a decade ago I made a Quatro-Pro  spreadsheet to make quick calculations from masses on the periodic table. Well, now Excel rules the roost, so I created a similar version  using Excel. The fundamental element of the spreadsheet is that the cell with each mass is given a name that is the symbol for the element. So, for example, instead of having to remember which cell the mass of oxygen is in (C9, in this case), you only need to type in O.

The only element that doesn’t work with its symbol is carbon. Excel will not allow a cell to be named just “C”, so I had to use “CC” instead.


  • To calculate the mass of water, just type if =h*2+o (letters can be UPPER or lower case)
  • For hydrochloric acid, type =h+cl
  • Copper nitrate: =Cu+N*2+O*6
  • Carbon dioxide =CC+O*2 (this is an example of the carbon exception from above).


screenshot of spreadsheet
Screenshot showing the main “working portion” of the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet

Video overview