Electron Configuration Bingo

Super Value Game


Introduce students to the basics of electron configuration while enjoying the exciting game of Electron Configuration Bingo!


  • Electron configuration
  • Aufbau principle
  • Hund’s rule
  • Orbitals
  • Pauli exclusion principle


The Electron Configuration Bingo game is an excellent activity to do during in an electron configuration unit. The game serves the purpose of introducing topics to be covered in subsequent lessons. By the end of play, students will have learned about valence electrons, noble gas core configurations, and the configurations for ions. Students will also have been introduced to the idea that the configurations are related to the periodic table.

Before beginning this game, some basics of electron configuration should be reviewed or taught to students. Electron configurations are the ways electrons are situated around the nuclei of atoms. There are three basic rules to follow when determining the electron configurations of atoms—the aufbau principle, the Pauli exclusion principle and Hund’s rule.

The aufbau principle states that electrons enter orbitals of the lowest energy first. The s-orbital is always the lowest energy sublevel. Beyond the second energy level, the filling of atomic orbitals does not follow a simple pattern. For example, the 5s orbital is of lower energy than the 4d orbital (see Figure 3 for a complete pattern of orbital levels).

The Pauli exclusion principle states that an atomic orbital may contain a maximum of two electrons and that in order to occupy the same orbital, the two electrons must have opposite spins. A vertical arrow represents an electron and its direction of spin.

Hund’s rule states that when electrons occupy orbitals of equal energy, an electron enters each orbital until all of the orbitals contain one electron with parallel spins. For example, five electrons of the same spin would occupy five orbitals of the same energy level as shown in Figure 1.

As more electrons are added to the orbitals in this energy level, they enter with spins opposite to those of the first electrons in the orbitals. Two electrons occupying the same orbital are said to have paired spins (see Figure 2).
A sample electron order filling diagram would look as follows in Figure 3.
{13875_Background_Figure_3_Sample electron order of filling for calcium}
Valence electron configurations are also presented in this game. Valence electrons are the electrons in the highest occupied energy level of an elements. For example, sodium has one valence electron in the 3s orbital. The number of valence electrons largely determines the properties of an element. The valence number of an element is also related to the group number in the periodic table. For example, all elements in group IIA (e.g., berllyium, magnesium, calcium) contain two valence electrons.


Bingo chips, 750*
Bingo Clue Answer Key*
Bingo Validation Tables*
Electron configuration bingo cards, 24*
Electron Configuration Clues Transparency Master*
Electron Order of Filling Diagram Master*
Overhead projector
Periodic Table Master*
Standard envelope
*Materials included in kit.

Safety Precautions

The materials in this kit are considered relatively nonhazardous. Please follow all normal classroom guidelines.


All materials may be saved and reused for future classes.

Prelab Preparation

  1. Before beginning the activity, consider laminating the bingo cards. This will greatly increase their durability and longevity.
  2. Cut out each of the rectangles from the Electron Configuration Bingo Clues Transparency. Place the rectangles into an envelope.
  3. Make copies of the Electron Order of Filling Diagram and the Periodic Table for each student group. These two charts may be used as references for students during the game.


  1. Give each student an Electron Configuration Bingo Card, an Electron Order of Filling Diagram, a Periodic Table copy and approximately 25 bingo chips.
  2. Draw a transparency clue piece from the envelope and place it on an overhead projector. Students determine the answers to the clue and cover the corresponding space on their cards. Ground state configurations are assumed for the game.
  3. Continue drawing transparency clue pieces until someone has five spaces in a row and shouts “bingo” (or some other exclamation appropriate to the topic).
  4. A bingo is confirmed by asking the card number of the bingo and where the bingo is on the card (e.g., top row, middle column). Notice that each transparency clue piece has a clue number. These numbers can be quickly checked on the table corresponding to the winning card number on the Bingo Validation Tables sheet.
  5. After a winner is confirmed, play can continue by having students clear their cards or by simply continuing with more clues in the same game.

Teacher Tips

  • Introducing Valence Configurations: The game may be rigged to start with clues for entire configurations of neutral atoms (clues 16–25). When students seem comfortable with that, throw in a valence configuration clue (such as clue 3). Explain to students what valence configuration means and continue play.
  • Introducing Periodic Placement: Make sure that clues for the valences of Na, K and Rb are in the first few clues that are chosen (the gaming commission would have a problem with how this game is run). Then use the valence of cesium clue. Students are sure to moan and groan about having to figure out the electron configuration for 55 electrons so offer an easier way. Draw attention to the answers found for the valence configurations of Na, K and Rb and the positions of these elements in Group 1. It’s an “ah-ha” moment as students realize that Cs must have a 6s1 ending.
  • Ions and Noble Gas Cores: Toward the end of the class period, use clue 2 for the configuration of a potassium ion. This requires a discussion of how this ion would form. One of the last clues that may be used is clue 4 for the noble gas core in the configuration of Mg. This is the lead-in to noble gases (helium, neon, argon, krypton, xeron and radon) and to the writing of noble gas notations.
  • Other Variations:
    1. After several clues, determine which student has the fewest spaces covered. Allow that student to make up a clue that will cover a space.
    2. Pull the cards out again near the end of the unit and offer clues like “cover all spaces that would have unpaired electrons” or “cover spaces of neutral metals.” Considering clues like these, challenge students to determine how a card could bingo with the fewest number of clues.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Developing and using models

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
HS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

Crosscutting Concepts

Energy and matter


Flinn Scientific would like to thank John Thompson, New Castle Crysler High School, New Castle, IN, for the idea for this activity.

Next Generation Science Standards and NGSS are registered trademarks of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.