Latest Design 2005:
With this symmetrical ABC Wheel one can teach the Alphabet
and the Color Wheel at the same time. (Image by Damien Clenet.)

The ABC Wheel and The Symmetrical Alphabet

By Bill Lauritzen

The Symmetrical Alphabet and Circular Projection Alphabet (or Alphabet Circle or ABC Wheel) incorporates psychological principles of learning. Psychologists have long known that we should "chunk" information in order to remember it easily. Thus, our phone numbers are chunked into a 3-3-4 pattern, our social security number is chunked into a 3-2-3 pattern, etc. The limit to one chunk has been found to be around 6 items.

Of course having a "visual map" of information helps to also anchor and organize the information in the student's neural system. Placing all the letters in a circle allows one to see all of them at once. The circle allows one to associate (link) the letters immediately and easily. In other words, one can at once see that any letter can associate (link) with every other letter. Imaging the circle as a kind of billiard table helps to visualize this. The billiard ball could hit any two consecutive letters. One does not have to "mentally" rearrange the letters in order to associate different letters (as with the traditional Linear Projection Alphabet or A, B, C, D, E...) In other words, the permutations are quite evident

Using a circular model is more in harmony with reality as most of the universe uses circular or spherical shapes. Gravity pulls spherically inward, while radiation flows spherically outward. Our eyeballs, our brains, the Earth, the moon, the sun, etc., are mostly spherical and they circle around the Earth, or sun, or the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, etc.

By dividing the 360-degree circle into 24 equal spaces, we get the most symmetrical (and easily remembered) pattern and shape. The universe also splits things into 24 as shown by stop-action photography: when a drop of liquid falls into a pool, 24 tiny fountains spring upward and outward in a circle. Twenty-four is also part of an important series of numbers that I call "versatile numbers" (also called "highly composite" numbers). These numbers (2, 4, 6, 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 120, 240, 360...) are sort of the opposite of primes as they have a relatively large number of factors (more than any smaller number).

By removing 2 letters of the 26 letter English alphabet, and placing them on a horizontal line, we allow the remaining 24 letters to occupy the 24 spaces (15 degrees for each letter).

The remaining letters then chunk into an easily remembered 444-444 pattern. Thus we have 6 sectors or 24 spaces. An easy way to describe the circle is as a 444-2-444 pattern.

Unfortunately, the traditional "alphabet song," by which most students learn the alphabet, has the following chunks: 43453322. This lacks any symmetry or meaningful pattern. It should be easy to compose a song which uses the Circular Projection Pattern of 444-2-444.

The ABC wheel could be for English what the periodic table is for chemistry. Most people don’t know that chemistry’s periodic table actually flows in a circle (hence its periodic nature) but for ease of printing it was made into a table form. The vowels could be colored in special fashion like certain chemicals are colored.

Some possible learning activities might be: tracing the letters, coloring the various sectors, filling-in blank circular templates, cutting out the circle, correctly arranging removable letters on the circle, building a ABC "wheel" out of "Lego’s" type shapes, watching the teacher spin a large, wall-mounted ABC wheel while calling out the letters, etc.

A spelling game could be made in which someone has to spell a word without crossing a line to the next letter. An ABC roulette wheel could be made. A large roll out mat could be put on the floor of the classroom so that the students could stand and represent each of the letters. This mat could also be made big enough for use on the gym floor. A large circle could be drawn on the concrete of the playground and PE teachers could devise games, which used it.

Do these activities over the course of a year; I hypothesize that learning rate will increase, retention will improve, learning disabilities will diminish, etc. Over time, I would also expect improvements in spelling, word formation, and general creativity. These benefits may also occur in adults (native English speakers) who study and use the ABC circle map. Having a circular, cognitive map (that mimics to some degree our brain's own "neural networks"), and allows for easy inter-association of letters, can be of great benefit.

The ABC song could easily be rewritten to integrate with this new structur

We have, perhaps for the first time, organized the alphabet.

(c) 2000, 2005 William Lauritzen