Inside: Ever heard the saying, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat?” Well, there’s also more than one way to be smart! The Theory of Multiple Intelligences has been one of the biggest breakthroughs in education. Howard Gardner of Harvard University identified 9 unique ways to be amazingly smart. Gone is the notion that children are born with a fixed intelligence measured by an IQ test—there are multiple ways to be gifted!
Ever heard of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences? It’s been around for eons, but in 1983, one of the biggest breakthroughs in education came when Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education gave parents and educators a greater understanding about intelligence and how children learn.
He took the hundreds of ways we can be smart and categorized them into 7 areas. In his first book, Frames of Mind, he introduced us to the “Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Until Gardner’s research, educators believed that children were born with a fixed intelligence measured by an IQ test.
Not, so, said Gardner, there are many ways to be smart!
I vividly remember taking an IQ test in the fourth grade. Apparently, my IQ was dismal because my parents refused to talk to me about the results. However, the damage was done. I don’t think from that point on my parents looked at me as someone with a brain despite my achievements or accomplishments. I blame the IQ test…
9 Unique Ways to Be Amazingly Smart
Originally, Howard Gardner identified seven different areas of intelligence and said that these seven areas develop at different times and to different degrees in different individuals. They are:
- Logical/Mathematical (number/reasoning smart)
- Linguistic (word smart)
- Music (sound smart)
- Bodily/Kinesthetic (body smart)
- Spatial (picture smart)
- Interpersonal (people smart)
- Intrapersonal (self-smart)
He later identified two other intelligences:
What’s so amazing is that instead of narrowing our abilities to one or two ways to be smart, Gardner said we have within us the capabilities of all nine intelligences! Contrary to the fixed or predetermined intelligence notion of the past, we have a tremendous capacity for learning many things throughout our lives.
The possibilities are enormous in terms of what we can accomplish!
Schools Need To Reward More of the Multiple Intelligences
The bad news is: schools only reward two types of intelligence: the verbal/linguistic and the logical/mathematical. The seven others are equally important, just not necessarily acknowledged in school.
The good news is that music intelligence is so powerful that by learning a musical instrument and studying the arts, the other eight intelligences can be developed and strengthened simultaneously.
This is important because it will help you to understand how important music and the arts are to a child’s budding intellect.
Eric Oddleifson, former chairman of the Center of the Arts in the Basic Curriculum (now known as Arts Learning at Walnut Hill School) concurs:
“Music education at the elementary school level appears to be a necessary ingredient for children to realize their potential in mathematics and reading. Visual arts appear to be necessary for children to realize their potential in science. Similarly, other arts, such as creative writing, dance or drama, appear to be necessary for the development of one’s abilities to fully express oneself, whether in writing or in interpersonal communications, both of which are requisite for being an effective member of a highly technological society.”
Here are the characteristics of each of the intelligences and ways to develop them in your children. I’ve also given examples of how they increase through a study of music and the arts. (The definition of “arts” includes the disciplines of music, the visual arts, drama, dance and creative writing).
A Word of Caution…
Do NOT pigeon-hole you or your child into one area of intelligence. Gardner made it very clear that we have all of these intelligences within us and they surface at different times in our lives depending on how we develop these “smarts.”
Look at yourself and your child as complex and amazingly talented people brimming with giftedness. After all, we are here to accomplish great things and do good things. Never limit your own possibilities or the possibilities of your children!
Nine Ways to Be Smart, the Characteristics of Each & How to Develop Them
Logical/Mathematical Intelligence (number, reasoning smart)
Characteristics of Logical/Mathematical Smart Person
- Loves numbers
- Is logical
- Able to reason, sequence
- Sees pattern relationships
- Able to analyze information and break down parts of a problem and see the connections
How to Develop Your Child’s Logical/Mathematical Smarts
- Encourage your child to play games such as Clue, dominos, or chess
- Buy a chemistry set and help your child with the experiments
- Have your child practice calculating math problems in his/her head
- Make math a part of your child’s life: while cooking teach him/her about fractions; when shopping how to balance a checkbook and when purchasing a home how to calculate loan rates, etc.
How Logical/Mathematical Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
Learning a musical instrument strengthens understanding of certain math concepts such as:
- pattern relationships
- sequencing and repetitions
- numbers, strategy, and experimentation
- Children learn to count the correct beats in a measure, identify patterns and repetitions of a musical theme, and understand different forms of music (rondo form, etc.).
Famous Mathematical Intelligence Person: Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson was a dazzling mathematician and has been immortalized in the movie, “Hidden Figures.” Her contributions in math changed the space program.
At a very young age, she showed an interest and curiosity in numbers and calculations. She graduated from high school at 13 and from college at 18.
Eventually, she started working as a “computer” at Langley laboratory in Virginia. It was here that she calculated the orbital equations that would control the capsule in John Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from blast off to splashdown. Glenn relied on her precise calculations to bring him safely home.
She felt her greatest contribution to space exploration were her calculations that helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module.
Other Mathematical Intelligent People
Sir Issac Newton
Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence (word smart)
Characteristics of Verbal/Linguistic Person
- Loves words and thinks in words
- Loves crossword puzzles
- Enjoys writing, reading, and telling stories
- Proficient at learning languages
- Good at entertaining through the spoken word
- Can teach and explain things to others
- Public speakers
How to Develop Your Child’s Verbal/Linguistic Smarts
- Read to your kids every day and have them read every day. Discuss the books you are reading; go to the library
- Subscribe to a high-quality newspaper such as The Wall Street Journal
- Keep a journal
- Learn and use one new word each day
How Verbal/Linguistic Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
When involved in drama or creative writing, students who love words and language also learn:
- How to express themselves
- Memorize lines
- Speak confidently in front of an audience
- Use the written word to articulate thoughts and ideas and imagination.
Famous Verbal/Linguistic Intelligence Person: T.S. Eliot
T.S. Eliot was an enormously talented British poet, playwright, and essayist. At the age of 10, Eliot created a magazine called, ‘Fireside.’
“In a three-day period during his winter vacation, he created eight complete issues. Each one included poems, adventure stories, a gossip column, and humor,” states Howard Gardner. (Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice)
He is considered “one of the twentieth century’s major poets,” and was highly gifted with words.
One of my favorite quotes of T.S. Eliot is: “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Other Verbal/Linguistic Intelligent People
Music Intelligence (sound smart)
Characteristics of the Music Smart Person
- Can sing in tune
- Enjoys music
- Plays a musical instrument
- Understands and produces melodies and rhythms
- Sensitive and can discern between sounds, pitch, rhythm, timbre, and tone
- Creates, reproduces and recognizes music
- Band directors
- Music critics
- Sensitive listeners
How to Develop Your Child’s Music Smarts:
- Enroll your child in music lessons
- Take your child to music concerts, musicals, opera, etc
- Sing each day; in the shower, while getting dressed, in the car, etc.,
- Make up jingles for the information you want your child to remember (math facts, spelling words, etc.)
How Music Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
Oftentimes musicians and mathematicians share common thinking processing. Their involvement with music helps:
- Stimulating creativity and imagination
- Learning a foreign language
- Memorizing facts
- Retaining ideas
- Thinking more clearly and more critically
Famous Music Intelligence Person: Yo-Yo Ma
Yo-Yo Ma is a gifted musician. He began playing the cello at age four and six months later he was playing Bach suites. His father taught him, but unlike Mozart’s father, he did not push or pressure his young son.
At the age of seven, Ma had memorized three Bach suites and by the age of 14, it was obvious to the music community that he was virtuoso material.
While at Harvard University, Ma realized how important music was to him and he pursued it exclusively. Today, he is internationally recognized as one of the greatest cellists in the world.
Other Music Intelligent People
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ludwig Van Beethoven
Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence (body smart)
Characteristics of the Bodily/Kinesthetic Smart Person
- Aware of his/her body
- Has control over bodily movements
- Able to use his/her hands skillfully
- Has excellent timing, physical skills
- Can manipulate objects
- Likes to move and has lots of physical energy
- Excellent hand-eye and muscle coordination
- Enjoys hand/mind movements such as yoga, tai chi, and aikido
- Actors who understand and has control over his/her bodily movements.
Also includes people who use their hands skillfully such as:
- Furniture makers
How to Develop Your Child’s Bodily/Kinesthetic Smarts
- Enroll your child in sports such as soccer, baseball, tennis or golf
- Exercise regularly; go on walks as a family
- Learn American Sign Language as a family
- Learn how to juggle or learn different percussion instruments
How Bodily/Kinesthetic Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
- Dancing increase physical coordination, dexterity and the development of large and small muscles as children move their bodies to the music
- Artists, sculptors, and craftsmen use their hands to create artistic masterpieces
- Students playing musical instruments learn finger and arm dexterity and movement
Famous Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence Person: Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe was a Native American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. At the age of 16, his athletic ability was recognized when he walked past the track and beat all the schools’ high jumpers with a 5 ft. 9-in jump while in street clothes.
Thorpe is considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports, having excelled in professional football, baseball, and basketball. He was even talented on the dance floor, competing in ballroom dancing and winning the 1912 intercollegiate ballroom dancing championship.
Other Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligent People
Auguste Rodin (sculptor)
Spatial Intelligence (picture smart)
Characteristics of the Spatial Smart Person
- Visualizes in pictures or images
- Able to accurately create what he/she mentally sees
- Good at drawing, sketching in detail
- Understands three-dimensional space
- Love mazes and jigsaw puzzles
- Enjoys daydreaming
How to Develop Your Child’s Spatial Smarts
- Put together puzzles or play with a Rubik’s cube
- Learn photography, videography and digital media
- Take classes in drawing, sculpting, painting or graphic design
- Take apart things like a toaster or blender and put them back together
How Spatial Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
- Spatial intelligence is increased when studying a musical instrument.
- Artists constructing a mural understand spatial relationships as they create a painting, sculpture, drawing, etc. that is proportionally balanced
- Sculptors mentally see the sculpture in their minds-eye before creating it 3-dimensionally in clay, marble, wood, etc.
- Drama students use spatial skills when staging a dramatic performance
Famous Spatial Intelligence Person: Albert Einstein
Einstein was considered a spatial genius.
Some people with strong spatial intelligence are daydreamers as they think, imagine, create, invent pictures and solve problems in their minds.
Einstein was daydreaming—taking a ride through the universe on a beam of light—when he came up with his theory of relativity. It was his acute visual imagination, not his formal training in physics, that led to his discovery of one of the most significant theories of all time.
Einstein was also a gifted violinist and felt that music helped him to think and organize his thoughts.
Other Spatial Intelligent People
Leonardo da Vinci
Ben Carson, MD
Interpersonal Intelligence (people smart)
Characteristics of the Interpersonal Smart Person
- Interact with others effectively
- A good team player
- Able to view the world from another’s perspective
- Understands people
- Sensitive to the moods and temperaments of others
- Leaders amongst their peers
- Good at communicating
- Social workers
How to Develop Your Child’s Interpersonal Smarts
- Get involved with school leadership
- Join an orchestra, band, book group or hiking group
- Volunteer at your local Red Cross or other non-profit organizations
- Strike up conversations with people in public places
How Interpersonal Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
- In an orchestra, drama or dance, students learn the importance of teamwork. They interact with one another and thrive on their involvement with their peers
- Orchestra members must cooperate and listen to each other in order to play successfully together
- Drama students work together painting scenery or performing a play
- Artists critique another’s artwork, etc.
Famous Interpersonal Intelligence Person: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most powerful social reformers of the 20th century. Influenced by the writings of Mahatma Gandhi, he led the American Civil Rights Movement that opened the doors for African-Americans to enjoy the freedoms given them by the Constitution.
It was his ability to interact with others, to gain their confidence and to be the leader they needed that springboarded his success. He positively changed the course of United States history and since his death, it has been acknowledged that there has been no other leader in the black community that has had the influence that Dr. King had in social reform.
Other Interpersonal Intelligent People
Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller’s teacher)
Intrapersonal Intelligence (self-smart)
Characteristics of the Intrapersonal Smart Person
- Understands one’s innermost feelings and emotions
- Aware of who she/he is
- Enjoys meditation, contemplation
- Self-disciplined, independent, goal-oriented and self-motivated
How to Develop Your Child’s Intrapersonal Smarts
- Learn to meditate
- Read self-help books and practice what they suggest
- Start your own business. As a child, start a lemonade stand
- Develop a hobby that sets you apart from others
How Intrapersonal Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
- In the creation process, artists are independent thinkers and creators
- A musician independently composes music
- Artists ‘find’ themselves through the individual expression of their work
- Through the process of studying music and the arts, people come to “know thyself”
- Spiritual leaders
Famous Intrapersonal Intelligence Person: Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was one of the most selfless people who has ever lived. Her intrapersonal skills enabled her to be one of the most caring and influential people in the world. It was her understanding of herself and her unwavering faith that set her on a course of giving and serving the poorest of the poor with compassion and empathy.
She was a powerful influence for good and her self-motivation and confidence in who she was allowed her to stand up to kings and presidents and ask for and get what she needed to help people forgotten by society.
If anyone understood her mission in life and pursued it relentlessly, it was Mother Teresa.
Other Intrapersonal Intelligent people
Joan of Arc
Naturalist Intelligence (nature smart)
Characteristics of the Naturalist Smart Person
- Is sensitive to the natural world
- See the forests and the trees
- Enjoys spending time outdoors and exploring the world
- Notices relationships and differences in nature
- Sees connections and patterns within the plant and animal kingdoms
- Ask endless questions about the world
- Archeologists and more…
How to Develop Your Child’s Naturalist Smarts
- Hike on a nature trail; take pictures; breathe the air
- Create a garden: either a flower or vegetable garden or both
- Bike your way through forests and mountains
- Categorize plants, rocks, and birds on your nature hikes
How Naturalist Intelligence Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
- Naturalists find the sounds in nature—birds, wind, rushing water, rain, thunder, etc., very music-like
- They find art expressed in nature through the changing of the seasons and the varying size, shape, and colors of plants, animals, clouds, and oceans
- Through their lenses, outdoor photographers see art and beauty in the earth’s natural surroundings.
- Artists find the varying patterns of natural objects perfect for creating artistic pieces
- Musicians find patterns and nature themes in a fugue, symphony, etc.
Famous Naturalist Intelligence Person: John Muir
John Muir, also known as “John of the Mountain,” was an early advocate for preserving the wilderness in America. His books, essays, and letters describing the spiritual quality of nature, inspired leaders to take action and preserve nature.
His activism helped to protect the Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas.
Other Naturalist Intelligent People
John James Audubon
Alexander von Humboldt
Existential Intelligence (life or spiritual smart)
Characteristics of the Existential Smart Person
- Thinks philosophically
- Asks deep questions about human existence such as: Where did we come from? What is our purpose here? Why do we die? Where do we go after death?
- Seeks and looks for the big picture (Gardner said, “the ability to see the big picture is a distinct intelligence…the existential intelligence”).
- Makes connections between knowledge and the world
- Likes to look at things from different points of view and discuss with others
Gardner sees existential intelligence as a natural trait in most children and that their questions should be encouraged and given help to find answers:
“In any society where questioning is tolerated, children raise these existential questions from an early age — though they do not always listen closely to the answers.”
- Life coaches
How to Develop Your Child’s Existential Smarts
- Learn about other people’s beliefs in religion and the universe
- Take something your child has learned in school and think about different ways to look at it.
- Study topics from multiple points of view
How Existential Intelligence Smarts Relate to Music and the Arts
- A deep and contemplative thought is a part of the process of composing music, drawing or painting a picture or writing a book. Thought, analysis, and careful planning go into creating each of these
- Many musicians, artists, writers think outside and beyond the box. Their creativity causes them to ask questions as they search for meaning in places others dare not tread.
Famous Existential Intelligence People: Socrates and Jesus Christ
Socrates was a famous Greek philosopher who invented the “Socratic method,” of asking probing questions in order to understand truth. The Socratic method is still employed today by philosophers and others seeking to understand deep truths.
Jesus Christ was the founder of one of the world’s largest religions: Christianity. He taught the belief in God, a higher being and someone who possessed all truth. He explained many questions people had about their purpose here on earth and the concept of an afterlife with consequences and eternal happiness.
Other Existential Intelligent People
Which of the 9 Types of Intelligences Are You?
It should be comforting to know that there are many ways to be intelligent.
However, after 35 years people are still debating whether or not these can actually be classified as “intelligences,” or if they are just skills (the exception being math and languages).
What do you think?
And, what kinds of smart are you? What are you doing to develop all these smarts within yourself? Your kids? Please comment in the section below.
You can access the 2-minute video: 9 Unique Ways to be Amazingly Smart here.