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Multiple Intelligences — A Primer

I wouldn't profess to be an expert or an authority on the topic of Multiple Intelligences (MI), but I will say that the concepts associated with MI are the foundation of everything we do here at Wonderbrains.com. This primer will provide some basic term definitions associated with MI and the various types of intelligence under the MI spectrum; however, first, a little background about where MI and IQ came from.

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 naturalist.

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 Agassi.

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 Sigmund Freud.

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.
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