The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

“reason, intelligence, logic, knowledge are not synonymous…,” Howard Gardner

One of the main advantages of home schooling is your ability to tailor your child’s lessons towards his/her specific needs. There seems to be an endless amount of information pertaining to how a child learns.

From Piaget to Glasser to Vygotsky, there is much debate as to how many learning styles there actually are. While preparing my article, I found that since my college days, Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences has grown. He has added three more potential learning styles/intelligences, only one of which we will cover here in any detail.

Gardner’s “Theory of Multiple Intelligences” is a fairly well-known and usually respected theory. I tend to use this method since it seems to incorporate both new & traditional theories of education and still remain fairly comprehensive. You will find that your child has a little of each style to varying degrees. You will also see how these styles rely upon each other in developing a well-rounded education.

What is “Intelligence”?
Gardner’s definition is “the capacity to solve problems or to fashion products that are valued in one or more cultural setting”.

Each person has his/her own unique style. According to Gardner, these intelligences do not work alone. Instead, they build upon each other in a unique way for each person. What this means is that a person with very strong musical & linguistic intelligence skills may very well be a poet or songwriter. On the other hand, a person with a weak bodily-kinesthetic intelligence won’t likely be a ballerina no matter how strong her musical intelligence is. It is also important to note that these intelligences are not a grading system. You don’t have to be strong in a particular intelligence to be smart. On the contrary, the whole point of this theory is that there is more than one way to measure, obtain and enhance intelligence.

“…a human intellectual competence must entail a set of skills for problem solving….enabling the individual to resolve genuine problems or difficulties that he or she encounters and, when appropriate, to create an effective product…and must also entail the potential for finding or creating problems…thereby laying the groundwork for the acquisition of new knowledge… the ideal of what is valued will differ markedly across human cultures.”
-Gardner, “Frames of Mind”.

The following is a simple description to help you determine which learning styles your children has strengths and weaknesses in. From here you can research each theory more thoroughly by looking for Gardner’s books in your local library or on the Internet. I think it is important to reiterate that each of us possess all these intelligences to various degrees. It is also a good idea to nurture the “weaker” intelligences so that you can educate and stimulate the whole child in order to facilitate a well-rounded individual.

1. Kinesthetic Intelligence (also called bodily-kinesthetic) :
He is always busy doing something. He fidgets when staying in one place. He has to touch everything and he then takes it apart and puts it back together. These are our dancers, sports players and athletes.
This child will best learn by hands on experimentation.

2. Interpersonal Intelligence :
She has charisma and people flock to her. She is the social butterfly. This child learns best when she works in a group. She may also be the class peacemaker.

She remembers events and relates them to people and vice versa.

3. Intrapersonal Intelligence :
This is the child who is very self-aware. He is very introspective and really thinks about himself. This child very likely has a high self-confidence. He has a tendency to be sensitive to his environment. He is very independent and private. He is likely to make decisions that go against the mainstream because he knows what is best for him.
He learns best when he teaches himself.

4. Linguistic Intelligence :

This is a child who is a good at spelling and has excellent reading comprehension skills. She may be excellent in debate and have a way with words. She may have spoken early on and has maintained an above average language/vocabulary.

She learns best when she reads & writes her information.

5. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence :
This child is good at seeing patterns. He is usually very good with numbers and excels in science as well. He will most likely do well in school, as this is the type of intelligence schools were designed for. He is always asking questions (which may not go over well in all school settings). He loves strategy games such as chess.

He does well with “book based studies”.

6. Musical Intelligence :
She has a knack at remembering the words to her favorite songs. She can hold a tune better than most famous rock stars. She may need music on in the background when she studies. She usually sings or hums to herself. She probably plays an instrument, can sing and can imitate other’s voices. Many, but not all of the components of this intelligence require the ability to hear. (An understanding of rhythm can be observed even in the deaf).

She learns well when the information is set to music.

7. Spatial Intelligence :
He has a photographic memory. He may be a daydreamer. He not only likes the pictures in books, but may learn more from the picture then from the text. He loves movies. This child uses mental imagery to solve problems.

He learns best when he has something concrete to look at. He may benefit greatly from educational videos or from stories that allow him to use his imagination. Gardner also makes note that even those who are blind develop this intelligence.

The following 3 are the latest additions to Gardner’s theory. He also believes that there could be other intelligences but it may be difficult to discern if he is not aware that he possess them.*

8. Natural Intelligence :
She is aware of her environment and can spot changes instantly. She can tell you the classification of a dinosaur with just a glance. She probably likes to collect natural items such as rock and plant samples and organizes them by a classification system. She may love astronomy. She probably loves all animals and would have a zoo in her room if you would only allow it.
She learns best when she can apply the information in a natural setting.

9. & 10. Spiritual Intelligence and Existential Intelligence :
To the best of my knowledge, Gardner is still debating whether these two intelligences are valid based upon his own criteria.








For more information:

Gardner, H. “Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century”
Gardner, H. “Are there additional intelligences? The case for naturalist, spiritual, and existential intelligences” In J. Kane (Ed.), Education, information, and transformation.
Gardner, H. “Reflections on multiple intelligences”
Gardner, H. “Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice”
Gardner, H. “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”

* “Intelligence Reframed : Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century” by Howard Gardner

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