The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Gardner EXPLAINED

While many people consider Multiple Intelligences by Gardner as being similar to learning styles, not many know that the theory isn’t supposed to be used to teach a child using only the intelligences that he or she is strongest in.

In this article, we’ll have a look at what the Multiple Intelligences theory is about and what difference it makes (or doesn’t make) to a child’s learning. Specifically, we’ll discuss:

Rebbecca Devitt

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  • What is the Multiple Intelligences theory by Gardner?
  • How Many Intelligences are there in Howard Gardner’s theory (and what are they)?
  • What’s the Difference Between Learning Styles and MI?
  • What are Your Strongest Aptitudes? (Quiz)
  • The Dangers of Labelling Children with Learning Styles and MI
  • Should You Teach Your Child According to Their Strongest Suits?

Let’s dive in and have a look at this amazing theory!


What is the Multiple Intelligences theory by Gardner about?

People naturally have stronger strengths in some areas (or intelligences) according to Howard Gardener. Depending on what strength you are strongest in, you will learn differently to others around you who are stronger in other areas.

For instance, if you have a high level of logical-mathematical intelligence, you might prefer reading facts, graphs, and statistics. On the other hand, if you are the strongest in visual-spatial intelligence, you might like to draw more.

You will also find learning easier through your stronger intelligence. However, just because you are strongest in one area, doesn’t mean you won’t be strong in other areas and shouldn’t use these other areas to learn with.


How Many Intelligences are there in Howard Gardner’s theory (and what are they)?

There are eight intelligences in the Multiple Intelligences theory by Howard Gardner. These intelligences include:

  • Intrapersonal MI
  • Interpersonal MI
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic MI
  • Naturalistic MI
  • Musical MI
  • Visual-Spatial MI
  • Logical-Mathematical MI
  • Verbal-Linguistic MI

As humans, we are supposed to contain all these intelligences to varying degrees (plus others that we haven’t discovered yet!). Let’s discuss each of these abilities more below.


Intrapersonal Intelligence

The word ‘intrapersonal’ means ‘within the self’. So Intrapersonal MI is another word for a high awareness of yourself (or a high level of self-awareness).

If you have a lot of intrapersonal intelligence, you’ll be aware of what your goals in life are, as well as your moods, desires, beliefs, emotions and motivations.


Interpersonal Intelligence

The word ‘interpersonal’ means ‘communication between people or relating to relationships’. Therefore, interpersonal MI is when you can understand other people and effectively interact with them.

Communicating with others effectively includes what you say as well as your non-verbal cues. Interpersonal intelligence is also being sensitive to how others are feeling and knowing how to interact with them according to their temperament.

If you have a high level of interpersonal MI, you’ll be able to consider multiple perspectives.

What is Multiple Intelligences, the theory proposed by Gardner? Is it something parents and educators should be familiar with? Learn about it here. #multipleintelligences #gardner #education


Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

The word ‘kinesthetic’ relates to learning through tactile experiences. Those with bodily-kinesthetic MI will learn best through feeling and a sense of a body position and muscle movement. As such, they tend to be very physically active and keenly aware of what their body is doing.

If you have a high level of bodily-kinesthetic MI you’ll enjoy constructing things and discovering how they work (perhaps because you’ll have great coordination and motor skills). You’ll be more excited about using your hands for a task as opposed to using a pencil.


Naturalistic Intelligence

Naturalistic intelligence is having a high sensitivity towards nature and appreciation of it. A person with naturalistic MI will gravitate towards gardening and animal-keeping.

If you have a lot of naturalistic MI, you’ll love being outdoors and growing a vegetable garden. You’ll know the difference between a tomato plant and a marijuana plant (this has come in handy before…trust me), and you’ll be more likely to know the names of different dog breeds. You’ll also likely have a guinea pig or two in your front yard. Nature walks will be among some of your favorite activities.


Musical Intelligence

If you have a high level of musical MI you’ll have the ability to distinguish between musical rhythm, tone, and pitch. People who are musically intelligent can reproduce music they’ve heard before and create their own tunes easily. They can also distinguish different notes and pitches. They are tone ‘sensitive’ as opposed to tone ‘deaf’.

If you have a lot of musical intelligence, you will love playing music, creating it, and singing.

Discover multiple intelligences by Gardner and learn if it can be used in your children's education. #multipleintelligences #gardner #education

Visual-Spatial Intelligence

If you have a high level of visual-spatial MI you’ll be able to remember faces and images you’ve seen before. You’ll also be able to remember fine details of things you’ve read or seen. People with high VS intelligence have good spatial judgment and reasoning.

If you have a lot of visual-spatial MI, you will be particularly good at drawing and painting. An ideal job for you might be interior design or architecture work.


Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

Logical-mathematical intelligence is when a person is skilled at deductive reasoning, logical thinking, and pattern recognition. They like to use scientific reasoning when considering things around them and generally love a good randomly-controlled study to back up their conclusions.

If you have a high level of logical-mathematical MI, you will love abstract games and maths quizzes (in fact, maths was probably your favorite subject in school). You’ll also dislike subjective analysis of different arguments that cannot be quantified.


Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence

Verbal-linguistic intelligence is a person’s strength in verbal and written skills. This means it comes into play when you’re talking to other’s in social situations or writing. People skilled in this area also tend to be particularly gifted at learning new languages. They have rich vocabularies which they add to constantly.

If you have a high level of verbal-linguistic MI, you will love words and word games like Scrabble and Bannanagrams. You may also like writing letters to friends or keeping a journal or blog. And of course, you can’t wait to learn a new word!

What’s the Difference Between Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences?

Many people think Multiple Intelligences by Gardner is just another name for what learning style your mind works with best.

However, this is a misconception because (as Gardner says) Multiple Intelligences is more about your different intellectual abilities; in contrast, learning styles is more about the way you’ll approach a range of materials or tasks.

Gardener says the theory behind learning styles doesn’t have clear enough criteria for how you would define a specific learning style (and therefore how students are supposed to find and fit into the learning style).


What are My Multiple Intelligences?

If you’re wondering what your special intelligence(s) is, you can get yourself tested using the quiz made by Literacy Net. This quiz will give you a score for each aptitude it tests for and let you know where your strengths lie.

I recently did the quiz and here were my results!

Multiple Intelligences Quiz Results from Rebbecca Devitt.


However (!), while these results are a fun way to discover where our strengths lie, they shouldn’t be used to pigeon-hole our learning styles.

Having strength in, for example, intrapersonal MI, does not mean you are weak in other areas and cannot learn using different MI’s (in fact, part of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory was that people can learn to be stronger in an area through the things they do and practice.)


The Dangers of Labeling with Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

Perhaps there is a danger when we label a child with a certain learning style or smartness in a particular area.

If we say, ‘You’re a great visual learner and you score well on that test, but you’re not so great when it comes to naturalistic understanding,’ we’ll find our students start considering themselves to be handicapped in that area and they’ll have an over-reliance on their stronger MI.

Instead, we should present a variety of materials to our children, so they can learn in detail, and in different ways about different topics. This will also make our lessons more engaging and fun for our children.


Should I Teach My Child According to Their Strongest Intelligence?

Although you might think this is the conclusion you would draw from such a theory, we are supposed to teach children in many different ways. We should be providing children (or anyone) with a rich variety of learning styles that will help them add depth to their education.

For example, if you’re studying frogs for the day, make sure you add pictures to the textbook you’re studying, and perhaps go outside later to reinforce the lesson in nature by seeing some live frogs in action!



Before looking into Multiple Intelligences, I was under the impression it was a learning method you could teach your children with. However, after looking into the theory, I’m convinced it should be used as a fun tool to see where our strengths lie, but it should not be used to narrow the scope of the way we learn. There are useful things to know in this theory, however, I believe it should be used with a wider learning method and framework.

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Rebecca Devitt

Most adults don't particularly want to relive their schooling experience on a daily basis. They would gladly move on to a new life devoid of homework and teachers. Very, very few adults will passionately blog about their schooling some 15 years after graduating. This makes Rebecca Devitt somewhat unique. As it happens, she was homeschooled. And she loved it. Still does. And she wishes every kid could get a taste of homeschooling at its very best. Her website How Do I Homeschool, is a springboard for parents to see what a life of homeschooling could be for both them & their children. When she's not blogging Rebecca is still homeschooling her-adult-self by learning Latin, growing weird vegetables and most importantly looking after her two children Luke & Penny. She has a husband Tristan and is a participant at Wollongong Baptist Church. She's also written a book about why parents should homeschool called 'Why on Earth Homeschool'.

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