|Focus||Periodic Table of the Elements|
|Topics||Atomic Mass, Atomic Number, Groups, Periods|
The atomic mass of an element listed in the Periodic Table represents the average mass of a single atom of that element and is measured in atomic mass units (amu). This number is an average as some elements have isotopes with atoms that vary in their number of neturons and, therefore, differ in weight.
The Periodic Table of the Elements categorizes elements primarily by the number of protons in their nucleus (atomic number) and secondarily by the characteristics they exhibit.
The columns of the Periodic Table are called groups and all elements in a group have the same number of electrons in their outer electron shell. The group that an element occupies generally determines its chemical properties as the number of outer shell electrons establishes the way it reacts with other elements to form molecules. So, because each element has the same number of electrons in its outer shell, each has similar reactivity.
The rows of the Periodic Table are called periods and contain elements that have the same number of electron shells ordered from lower to higher atomic number.