# How to use the periodic table

The periodic table is organized like a big grid. Each element is placed in a specific location based on its atomic structure. The elements are organized by the atomic number, which represents the number of protons of each element. Reading the periodic table gives you lots of information about the different elements. Let's first look at an individual box and see what information it contains.

Let’s look at carbon

It has a symbol of capital C.  The symbol is an abbreviation for a chemical element. Symbols for chemical elements normally consist of one or two letters from the Latin alphabet and are written with the first letter capitalized.

Next, let's focus on how to find the number of protons, neutrons,

and electrons. The number above the atomic symbol is the atomic number.  Carbon has an atomic number of six so it tells you

that it has six protons. Protons have a positive charge and give the elements its properties.

Let's figure out the number of electrons.

Unless the element is an ion which means it has a positive or negative charge it will have the same number of protons and electrons. Therefore, carbon will have six protons and six negative electrons.

Next, let’s find the number of neutrons.

Notice you will see under the C is a number 12 and 11 thousandths which is the relative mass of the element. The relative mass of an atom is the number of protons and the neutrons found in the nucleus and is the average of all the masses of all the isotopes of that particular atom. To find the number of neutrons of the element by using the relative mass first. Round the relative mass to its nearest whole number, in this case, twelve then you can use the formula mass number equals protons plus neutrons. Carbon has a mass number of twelve and you have six protons so you will have six neutrons.

Now a couple of extras like the color of the background. There is usually a key on the periodic table which tells you what the different colors represent.

The atomic number can be different colors.  For example, black may mean that the element is a solid. Finally, you can look and see what column the element is found in which will tell you it's family. Elements in the same family have similar properties and the same number of electrons in the valence levels, except for the elements in the middle called the transition metals.