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ACTIVITY in Naming Compounds, Molecular Formula, Covalent Bonding, Ionic Bonding, Molar Mass. Last updated March 25, 2020.


In this activity, students play a card game to practice creating chemical formulas.

Grade Level

High school


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to

  • identify which elements can bond to each other.
  • form appropriate compounds with different combinations of elements.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of

  • Covalent bonding
  • Ionic bonding


Teacher Preparation: 1 hour the first time

Lesson: 1 class period or more if desired


For each group:

  • Deck of element cards (minimum of 65 per group).
  • Periodic table


There are no special safety considerations for this activity

Teacher Notes

  • It is helpful to make one extra deck of cards and to have each deck written in a different color to help keep them separate.
  • Print on the card the element’s name, symbol, atomic number, and atomic mass.
  • The following elements could be used for printing on the cards:
hydrogen 10 cards aluminum 1 card
oxygen 15 cards
bromine 2 cards
carbon 5 cards iodine 2 cards
sulfur 4 cards copper 1 card
chlorine 5 cards zinc 1 card
nitrogen 3 cards barium 1 card
sodium 3 cards iron 1 card
phosphorus 2 cards silver 2 cards
potassium 2 cards magnesium 1 card
calcium 1 card mercury 1 card
lead 1 card silicon 1 card
  • Each deck should have at least 65 cards
  • The playing and scoring rules can be changed or modified to make the game more interesting and more difficult for more experienced players.

For the Student


A chemical formula is created by obtaining the necessary cards to express the whole formula. For example, seven cards, two of H, one S, and four O, will result in the formula H2SO4.

Suggested rules:

  1. Eight cards are dealt to each player (2-4 players). The remaining cards are placed in the center of the table and will be drawn during the game.
  2. Each player, in turn, draws a card from the center and discards one from his/her hand face up in the center, or he/she may pick up any one of the discarded cards instead of drawing.
  3. A player lays down for scoring credit a complete formula which he/she builds from cards held and drawn. Example: KClO3.
  4. A player must be able to name any compound for which he/she wants credit on the demand of another player.
  5. A player “goes out” by using all the cards in his hand to make formulas, thus ending the round.


  1. Add up the atomic weights of the masses in each formula laid down for score.
  2. The player that goes out first gets a 25-point bonus.
  3. Other players get credit for their formulas, less the sum of the atomic numbers of the elements remaining in the hand.
  4. Any player discovering an error by another player is credited with the correct formula instead of the person who made the error.
  5. Four rounds constitute a game.

Connections to Standards

North Dakota Standard(s):

11-12.3.2 Identify the basic organization of the periodic table.

11-12.3.6 Write the chemical formula and name for compounds using a table of element names, symbols, and oxidation numbers