Multiple Intelligences - A Primer
By Peter Petracco
Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Testing - where did it come from?
Two psychologists named Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon created the
first Intelligence Scale in 1905. The French government had
commissioned this test to assess, which students would likely
succeed or fail in the French school system.
In 1930, Lewis Terman made revisions to this original assessment and
renamed it the Intelligence Test. This was the first time in history
that an intelligence quotient to measure a child's mental age
against their chronological age.
Through the years, our school systems have come to rely heavily on
IQ and "standardized" testing, which puts an inordinate amount of
focus on verbal-linguistic and math-logical intelligences, typically
at the expense of other intelligences. But, the question remains,
what is this Multiple Intelligence idea all about?
Researching the Theory of Multiple Intelligence
The first exploration into the theory of Multiple Intelligence was
in a book by author, Dr. Howard Gardner in 1983. Dr. Gardner defined
intelligence as consisting of three components:
- Ability to create an effective product or service that is valuable to one's culture
- Set of skills that enables an individual to solve problems encountered in life
- Potential for finding or creating solutions for problems, which enables a person to acquire new knowledge
Dr. Gardner, who has become a world-renowned authority on the topic
of MI, derived this theory based on extensive brain research, as
well as interviews, tests, and research on hundreds of individuals.
He studied the cognitive abilities of people afflicted with strokes
and accident victims, as well as child prodigies, autistic children
and those with learning disabilities.
His conclusions became the foundation for his MI theory in that
intelligence is not one inborn fixed trait that dominates all a
student's skills or problem-solving abilities, but rather each
person has different parts of their brains that may be more highly
developed than other parts. While these different parts of the brain
are interconnected, they may work independent or in concert to help
a student learn depending on the educational environment and the
child's preferred intelligences.
With this in mind, Dr. Gardner identified eight different
Intelligences that every person would have, to varying degrees.
These intelligences are verbal/linguistic, math/logical, spatial,
bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and
The Eight Intelligences Explained
Verbal-Linguistic - The Writer/Speaker
Children with strong Verbal-Linguistic intelligence will have a
propensity to produce language and sensitivity to the nuances, order
and rhythm of words. These students love to read, write and tell
stories. They have good memories for names, places, dates and
trivia. Professionals with strong VL intelligence will be writers,
public speakers, teachers, and actors. Some historical examples
include Abraham Lincoln, T.S. Elliot and Charlton Heston.
Math-Logical - The Scientist
Children with strong Math-Logical intelligence have the ability to
reason deductively and can recognize and manipulate abstract
patterns or relationships. Students who have strong problem-solving
and reasoning skills will excel in this intelligence. Adults with
this intelligence will work as scientists, mathematicians, computer
programmers, lawyers or accountants. Some historical examples
include Albert Einstein, Nicolae Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell.
Spatial - The Builder
Children with Spatial intelligence have the ability to create
visual-spatial representations and can transfer them mentally or
concretely. Students who exhibit this intelligence need a mental or
physical "picture" to understand the information being presented.
Professionals in this intelligence are typically graphic artists,
architects, cartographers and sculptors. Some historical examples
include Frank Lloyd Wright, Pablo Picasso, and Bobby Fischer.
Musical - The Composer
Children with strong Musical intelligence have great sensitivity to
the rhythm of sounds (e.g. pitch, timbre, composition). Students
strong in this intelligence will enjoy listening to music and may
ultimately work as singers, songwriters, composers, or even music
teachers. Some historical examples include Ludwig van Beethoven,
J.S. Bach, and Mozart.
Bodily-Kinesthetic - The Athlete
Children with strong Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence gravitate
towards athletics; however, they also may use their bodies to solve
problems, or convey ideas and emotions. Students with BK
intelligence will be good at physical activities, have good hand-eye
coordination and may have a tendency to move around a lot while
expressing themselves. Professionals using BK intelligence will
include athletes, surgeons, dancers and even inventors. Some
historical examples include Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Andre
Interpersonal - The Peacemaker
Children with strong Interpersonal intelligence work effectively in
a group and understand and recognize the goals, motivations and
intentions of others. Students with this intelligence thrive in
cooperative, group work situations and are skilled at communicating,
mediating and negotiating. Professionals in this intelligence may be
teachers, therapists, and salespeople. Some historical examples
include Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Ronald Reagan.
Intrapersonal - The Philosopher
Children who are strong in the Intrapersonal intelligence have the
ability to understand one's own emotions, goals and motivations.
These students have good instincts about their strengths and
abilities. This intelligence will be highly developed in
professionals who work as philosophers, psychiatrists or religious
leaders. Some historical examples include Eleanor Roosevelt and
Naturalist - The Earth Lover
Children with strong focus in this intelligence will exhibit an
affinity for all things nature. These students will enjoy and thrive
when learning about nature topics, such as flora and fauna. Some
professions with focus on this intelligence will include forest
rangers, botanists, farmers and biologists. Some historical examples
include Charles Darwin, John Muir.
Please remember, while we have outlined some of the specific traits,
professions and historical examples associated with each
intelligence type, everyone has some level of proficiency in each
and every intelligence, and it behooves us, as parents, to learn how
to cultivate each of these intelligences in our children.
Misunderstood Historical Figures
This last section is meant to shine a little glimmer of hope on all
of us who may have not measured up to every task presented in our
lives. We hope it helps bring into focus how despite the influence
of some naysayers early in their lives, some of the most influential
and historic people in the world also suffered from their own
misalignment with the "status quo" of their times.
- Albert Einstein was four years old before he could speak and seven before he could read.
- Beethoven's music teacher once said of him, "As a composer, he is hopeless".
- A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney because he had "no good ideas".
- Abraham Lincoln entered the Black Hawk War as a captain and came out as a private.
- Thomas Edison's teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything.
- And last, but not least, Louisa May Alcott was told by an editor that she would never write anything that had popular appeal.
About The Author
Think * Play * Create
Peter Petracco runs WonderBrains, an educational toystore based on
the principles of the Multiple Intelligence Theory. He also
contributes to WonderWaves, a monthly newsletter full of educational
tidbits and guidance on educational toy shopping. Visit the
WonderBrains website at http://www.wonderbrains.com