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Not An Easy Decision
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Not An Easy Decision

Credit: Kate Haskell
Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11889819@N00/27199866
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

We all probably have files we use – for work, for school, for personal items. Most of the time, there is no problem figuring out where to file something. Information about your car goes in a specific file, possibly labeled “Car”. Recipes will go in a "recipe" labeled folder. Bills and receipts end up in another folder. However, not everything has an obvious file folder. Sometimes you sit there holding a piece of paper and asking “Now, where do I put this?”

Why It Matters

  • An amateur photographer enjoys taking pictures and has a large number of them on file. But the images are not organized into files. He decides to set up some files, and names them “People”, “Water”, “Sky”, and “Cars”. All goes well until he has an image of a friend standing by his car by a lake. Where will this image be filed? What will the decision be based upon?
  • Many things in life are not really clear-cut. You make decisions daily about what book you want to read, what friend to call, what TV show to watch. Your decisions are not usually random ones, but made on the basis of some kind of check-list (either real or at least in your head). You want to read two books – one is about a sports hero and one is about a politician. They are both books, they are both about people, but they do not appeal equally to your interests.
  • Credit: Evelyn Saenz
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynsaenz/6948858541/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    The reason why some things are difficult to categorize is because they share many things in common [Figure2]


  • Efforts to categorize elements always fall short somewhere. Is this element a metal or a non-metal? Is it somewhere in between? Different periodic tables attempt to sub-divide using color codes, but these codes are not always completely reliable. Since we can classify elements by atomic number, more useful information can be obtained as we look at the individual properties of each element. The metal-metalloid-nonmetal categories can serve as a starting place, with further subdividing being done on an individual basis.
  • Watch a video at the link below to learn more about classification of elements:


Show What You Know

Use the links below to learn more about element categories. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What do metals do with their electrons?
  2. Take the short quiz at the dl.clackamas.edu web site. Don’t peek at the answers until you are done.
  3. How can metalloids be used?
  4. Which non-metals are essential for human life?
  5. What kind of bond is formed between two non-metals?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Kate Haskell; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11889819@N00/27199866; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Evelyn Saenz; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/evelynsaenz/6948858541/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0


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