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Taking Multiple Intelligence Theory to a Higher Level

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Beth Borders, Mae Daniel and Dana Rolison
October 30, 2015

In the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee wrote, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Intelligences that humans possess are as unique as their physical appearance and behavior style. The Multiple Intelligence Theory (MI Theory) was developed by Howard Gardner who believed people have at least eight multiple intelligence levels. His theory “includes spatial, musical, kinesthetic, naturalist, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences, in addition to the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, which are traditionally emphasized in U.S. schools.” (See chart).

Teaching the Multiplication Tables utilizing the MI Theory

Intelligences Characteristics Sample Activity
Spatial This type of learners have the ability to visualize spatial judgments and solve problems through various angles and space. The students will color arrays that represent a math problem. Example:2×3 = 6.


Musical This type of   learners possess a high musical aptitude, and learn well by rhythm, singing and playing instruments. The students will cite or sign a multiplication song that recalls multiplication facts.
Kinesthetic This type of learners are usually good at sports, dancing, or other physical activities that require moving the body. They are also great at making things. The students will use manipulatives to count by 2s, 5s and 10s.
Naturalistic This type of learners become skilled when taught through lessons that revolve around nature. The students will create an array of rows while planting items.
Logical-Mathematical This type of learners can reason well, think logically, are critical thinkers and work well with numbers. Using problem-solving by working word problems.
Verbal-Linguistic This type of students learn by speaking or reading words. Usually, they are great storytellers and can memorize words along the way. The students will create stories that represent multiplication facts.
Interpersonal This type of learners work well with others. The students will complete a group project.
Intrapersonal This type of learners work well alone. The students will work alone to create a drawing that represents a multiplication concept.

Using the MI Theory with Upper Grades

Teachers of young children, often called the “the scissors and glue teacher” are more familiar with the hands-on method in delivering instruction. These teachers must deliver instruction in a manner that is pleasing to young minds to hold their attention. Many studies indicate an average attention span of a kindergartner is 15 minutes. Others agree that many social and mental factors are involved. It can be assumed the older student’s attention span is greater; however many demands, such as high-stakes testing, are placed on the upper level. Recent research has shown that when utilizing the MI Theory in upper grades, districts noticed positive changes in how students’ grasped concepts.

The Roots of the MI Theory

Although the MI Theory has existed for nearly 40 years, many features coincide with current research. Since the 1800s, educators have realized students can learn from hands-on approaches or by means of involving moving around. Often this is why students enjoy enrichment-style classes: because of the uniqueness of the class and different learning that takes place.

MI Theory is motivating for educators, parents and students. Additionally it assists them in making a “personal connection to what they were learning and [encourages] teachers and students to enjoy a more active learning approach.” Students who are actively engaged in learning are connected to the learning process and its outcome. Therefore, student motivation is an immense milestone and research shows success using the MI Theory.

Why use the theory?

A 2009 study described a teacher as an innovative thinker that is always searching for varied ways to help students be their most successful in the classroom and in life. Howard Gardner’s development of the multiple intelligence theories have provided teachers an opportunity to explore and create various roads to success for students by incorporating strategies in their teaching using these intelligences. Teachers can develop lessons that engage the specific learner types that are present in a classroom. The lessons and/or assessments would vary from each class, depending on the learning types present. Additionally, students would have the knowledge of their own learning type and could be given strategies that specifically help them learn based on their learning style.

With No Child Left Behind guidelines, teachers have felt increased pressure to see academic performance excel in the classroom. Given the added demands, educators are searching for ways to help increase student performance and allow students to truly grasp the content, not just memorize it for temporary success on a test. Howard Gardner’s theory of identifying multiple intelligences in students and using that data to create various lessons and assessments is an immaculate tool teachers can easily use in the classroom.


In conclusion, research shows the multiple intelligence theory is greatly beneficial to student learning and progress in the upper and lower levels. It can foster new learning and opportunity of educational exploration for both teacher and student in all grades. The ability to reach students in ways that have never been done is exciting and enticing to try something that can be successful for the learners. Therefore, educators should integrate the intelligences into the curriculum without losing the sight of the objectives.

Author: Beth Borders is a graduate student at The University of West Alabama. Borders can be reached at [email protected]Mae Daniel, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at The University of West Alabama. Dr. Daniels can be reached at [email protected]Dana Rolison, Ph.D., is an associate professor at The University of West Alabama. Dr. Rolinson can be reached at [email protected].

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