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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

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.

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


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