Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner, a contemporary American developmental psychologist, rejected the traditional theory of general intelligence, instead identifying intelligence as the ability to solve problems and to generate new problems to solve.

He identified eight types of intelligence: 


  • Word Smart
  • Process through words and language
  • Author, newscaster, journalist, attorney


  • Math Smart
  • Process through analyzing, grouping, quantifying, and characterizing information
  • Scientist, accountant, philosopher, computer programmer


  • Music Smart
  • Process through sound, rhythm, and music
  • Musician, entertainer, instrument-maker, composer


  • Art Smart
  • Process through pictures, visuals, and images
  • Architect, engineer, sculptor, pilot


  • Body Smart
  • Process through movement and sensation
  • Athlete, craftsman, dancer, surgeon


  • Self Smart
  • Process through self-reflection and understanding of themselves
  • Poet, theologian, psychologist, philosopher


  • People Smart
  • Process through understanding and relating to others
  • Counselor, minister, teacher, politician


  • Nature Smart
  • Process through an understanding of natural systems
  • Farmer, landscaper, botanist, ecologist

Gardner determined that most people primarily use one or two intelligences. He stated that although no one type of intelligence is better than another, different cultures do have biases toward different intelligences, respecting those intelligences more than others. As the culture in America tends to favor verbal/linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligences, we tend to teach and test to those intelligences. That is fine for students who are "word smart" or "math smart", but leaves out those who learn better through any of the other 6 intelligences.

Next week, we'll talk about specific activities to help students learn to read through multiple intelligences.