Howard Gardner had a theory of multiple intelligences, which basically states that we are born with certain ways of how we process information. We don’t all process information the same way. The problem that arises is that when we are trying to teach something, we assume that the person we’re teaching will understand us exactly. But if that person processes information better in a visual-spatial manner, and we are teaching with our verbal-linguistic way (because that’s how we learn best), there will be a disconnect.
This title is a bit misleading because it says learning styles, and here I am talking about multiple intelligences. There’s a reason for that! Many educators have taken this model and tried to apply it to a learning environment. When it comes to schoolwork, the most common and easiest way to teach is through the verbal-linguistic way (reading and writing), which isn’t always effective. It’s best to use as many different methods as possible to present material.
Here is a breakdown of each category (with a bonus category added):
- Verbal-linguistic intelligence (well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words)
- Logical-mathematical intelligence (ability to think conceptually and abstractly, and capacity to discern logical and numerical patterns)
- Spatial-visual intelligence (capacity to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly)
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (ability to control one’s body movements and to handle objects skillfully)
- Musical intelligences (ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber)
- Interpersonal intelligence (capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others)
- Intrapersonal (capacity to be self-aware and in tune with inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes)
- Naturalist intelligence (ability to recognize and categorize plants, animals and other objects in nature)
- Existential intelligence (sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence such as, “What is the meaning of life? Why do we die? How did we get here?”
So, knowing all this, how do I teach math to my children at home? I know they have strong spatial-visual intelligence. To give an idea of how a learner in this category learns, let’s look at some key characteristics, (according to Linda Kreger Silverman, PhD.):
- They are whole-picture thinkers who grasp a concept all at once and see the whole before acknowledging the details.
- They have vivid imaginations and are often good at coming up with unusual or unexpected ways to solve problems.
- They learn more easily when presented with visual rather than auditory information
- They may seem disorganized.
- They neither learn in the step-by-step fashion that is common in the classroom nor learn well from drills and repetition.
- They struggle with showing the sequence of a process. For example, when the teacher asks them to show their work, they cannot easily do that, since they see the task as a whole, rather than a product of several steps. Despite this, they are able to work on complex tasks and may be classified as systems thinkers.
- They think in pictures rather than in words.
These learners learn like this:
- Children with this style may do better with whole word recognition rather than phonics.
- They may not perform well with spelling and handwriting.
- When learning math, they benefit from using manipulatives and story problems instead of performing equations.
- They are likely to do better at geometry.
- They enjoy puzzles, mazes, maps, and building blocks.
When it comes to math, we do all sorts of things to learn besides lecture mode. Lecture mode is easiest for me to get the basic point across, but there needs to be more in order to be effective. Well, I have a pretty incredible resource called the internet on my computer screen! Watching educational movies and videos go into the category of spatial-visual intelligence. We also play math card and board games, iPad games with math, and watch plenty of Odd Squad on Prime video. We have math manipulatives, math machines, and yes, fun math workbooks. Sometimes we cook and bake together, which is all about following recipes and reading numbers and learning about measurement. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence comes into play when cooking because the kids are learning by doing with their hands.
There is no limit to which style is best utilized. It depends on the student, it depends on the teacher, and it depends on what is being taught. The more ways material is presented, the better the retention!