Applying Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences to Mathematics

Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner (1991, p. 12) argues in favor of approaching a discipline in a variety of ways that accommodate multiple learning styles, thereby facilitating the learning process more effectively, “The broad spectrum of students — and perhaps the society as a whole — would be better served if disciplines could be presented in a number of ways and learning could be assessed through a variety of means.” In the mathematics classroom, there is a sizeable amount of tasks and lessons that correspond to Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. One strategy involves approaching multiplication facts in a different way. Instead of having students commit all the multiplication facts to memory through repetition, the teacher could write one multiplication fact on the board (e.g. 6 x 4 = 24). Then students could begin working with this fact in a variety of ways. The Logical/Mathematical learners would be able to write down all eight facts in the fact family, focusing on the logical relations of the facts. The Verbal-Linguistic learners would be able to write the multiplication fact using only words (e.g. The number six multiplied by the number four equals the product twenty-four.). They would also be able to write a word problem that requires the multiplication fact given in order to solve the word problem. The Visual-Spatial learners would be able to draw a picture to represent the multiplication fact (e.g. six circles with four dots in each circle). To help the Bodily-Kinesthetic learners with this part, they could use models or counters to represent the multiplication fact kinesthetically and then draw a picture of what they see. The Musical-Rhythmic learners and the Visual-Spatial learners would be able to represent the multiplication fact along a number line, illustrating the rhythmic progression leading to the product. The Intrapersonal learners would have time to work through each section individually and reflect on their understanding of the multiplication fact. The Interpersonal learners would be able to check each other’s work and ask questions. The Naturalistic learners would be able to draw a picture of the multiplication fact or write a word problem using references to nature. There are many strategies, like the one described above, and many ways to approach mathematics in correspondence with Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences. Technology offers another great resource that provides learning opportunities for the different intelligences, as well as project-based learning activities. With all these activities available, it is important to discern when an activity is appropriate for teaching a particular concept and use that activity effectively.

References

Gardner, H. (1991). The unschooled mind. Basic Books, New York, 1991.

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