In Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind, he proposes that there are seven
main areas in which all people have special skills; he calls them intelligences.
His research at Harvard University was in response to the work that Alfred
Binet had done in France around 1900. Binet’s work led to the formation
of an intelligence test; we are all familiar with the “intelligence quotient,”
or “IQ,” the way that intelligence is measured on his test.
This type of IQ test was used as the basis of another one with which most
of us are familiar: the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which is taken
my most college-bound high school students.
Both of these tests look predominantly at two types of intelligences: verbal
and math. If a person does well on these, s/he is considered “intelligent,”
and is a candidate for one of the better colleges or universities. But
what about everyone else? How many of you who are reading these words have
used the phrase “not good at taking tests,” when talking either about yourself
or your child?
The Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory proposes that there are other measures
of intelligence beside these two. I offer this information to you so that
you can understand that while many teachers have some knowledge of MI theory,
most of our schools are not fully set up to use it to the advantage of
That being the case, perhaps you can either (1) be involved in helping
your child’s teachers and school to provide a more balanced program that
develops his intelligences that are not more included in the curriculum
or (2) find activities outside of the school environment in which your
child can develop his dominant areas of intelligence.
You should also know that MI theory posits that each of us has, to some
degree or another, all of these intelligences. Some of them are simply
more developed than others. Furthermore, we are all able to improve our
ability in each of these areas.
In next week’s column, I will give a brief description of each of the intelligences.
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacher’s Advice for Parents.