Memorizing Polyatomic Ions with Nick the Camel

When I walked into chemistry class late, I stepped into a class undergoing a meltdown over the necessity to memorize polyatomic ions.

Actually, I’ve been considering dropping the class because of a conversation I had with my advisor. It doesn’t look likely that I while be able to do the program I have been thinking of working towards without making extremely painful sacrifices. In weighing the pros and cons, and survival in general, I’m not sure it’s worth it. So the motivation to memorize gobs of chemistry facts has mostly disappeared. I don’t mind learning about chemistry, but I don’t want to focus on memorization.

Before all this happened, I was frantically searching for help on Google – tips for memorizing polyatomic ions. That’s when I became acquainted with Nick the Camel and  Papapodcasts.

The creator of Papapodcasts has developed a variety of videos to help folks understand science and math concepts. I haven’t checked out all of the videos, but I really like the one for polyatomic ions.

The mnemonic to be learned is Nick the Camel ate a CLam for Supper in Phoenix.

Each of the words with a capital letter represents an element. The Cl in clam represents Chlorine.

All of the elements in this strategy are in -ate form. Chlorine, therefore, is actually chlorate.

How do you remember how to write this element? Well, to help you remember how many oxygen ions there are, just count how many consonants are in the word clam. There are 3 consonants so now we know there are three oxygen atoms in chlorate.

Wondering what the electrical charge is? It’s super easy with this strategy. Just count how many vowels are in the word clam. There is only one vowel so there is only one negative charge in chlorate.


Now, that doesn’t seem to help with a whole lot when you have what looks like a bazillion polyatomic ions to remember. What I realized is that for any -ites, like chlorite, all I need to do is subtract one oxygen. This also works for nitrite and sulfite.


What I’ve done is found the patterns that I can follow to recognize or conjure the polyatomic ions I need based on the list my instructor gave me and the mnemonic strategy.

I also added to the mnemonic strategy. Mine is Nick the Camel ate a CLam for Supper in Phoenix and CRowed. I did this because I also need to know chromate for my test and it wasn’t included in the strategy.

During the meltdown, I mentioned to the class that I found a helpful video. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to say Nick the Camel ate a Clam for Supper in Phoenix. After class, two classmates spoke with me for clarification. I’m hoping it helps all of us out. The next test is around the corner.

About misslittleowl

A teacher writing about local happenings, school adventures, intriguing books, desert gardening, and whatever else she stumbles upon that needs sharing.
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