Should we be using a different measuring tool for intelligence? Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University, thought so. In 1983 he developed the theory of multiple intelligences, a measuring tool that allows for a multi-faceted look at the qualities and talents that comprise true intelligence. Your homeschool curriculum allows the flexibility of incorporating aspects of this theory into all of your lessons in all subjects.
Using the multiple intelligence theory with your homeschool math curriculum is especially effective because math is often the most challenging subject to teach and learn. There are eight intelligences according to Dr. Gardner’s theory. You’ll find them listed below, with suggestions for how each one might fit your child(ren)’s learning needs and how to best integrate them into your math curriculum. Most children will often exhibit more than one of these!
Linguistic-Auditory Intelligence (“word smart”)
Your child loves to read, write, recite, and talk! S/he feels most comfortable curled up with a book or listening to or telling a story. Incorporate stories like “The Seven Swans” or “The Twelve Months” into first grade number recognition lessons. Clapping game rhymes like “Miss Mary Mack” could be a lead in to times tables practice in second or third grade math lessons. And word problems are an essential ingredient at all levels.
Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”)
Your child loves math! S/he is also good at problem-solving, recognizing patterns, and likes to conduct scientific experiments. Focus on the relationship between patterns and numbers, i.e., geometric forms and numbers, like the triangle and the number 3, the square and the number 4, etc. Use number “tricks” to encourage and enliven math practice, and point out patterns in the times tables, factors, etc. Relate math concepts to some of those science experiments!
Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (“body smart”)
Your child is physically active and has excellent eye-hand coordination and dexterity. S/he loves hands-on activities, tends to remember by doing rather than hearing or seeing, and is very good at dance and/or sports. Liven up your math lessons with lots of physical movement like stepping and counting, first the numbers and then the times tables. Adapt vigorous games like leap frog or tag for effective math skills practice, and include lots of hands on activities like making “real” numbers with clay and other materials and using manipulatives to learn math concepts.
Musical Intelligence (“music smart”)
Your child enjoys singing and playing musical instruments, recognizes musical patterns and tones, and remembers songs and melodies well enough to sing or play “by ear.” She’s good at thinking in patterns, rhythms, and sounds. Relate music theory to math concepts, (i.e., scales’ and notes’ relationship to fractions). Have your musical student compose songs that are helpful learning aids for challenging math concepts such as learning the steps in long division.
Visual-Spatial Intelligence (“picture smart”)
Your child loves to draw, paint, put puzzles together, and interpret graphs, charts, and maps. She’s good at visualizing things and following or giving directions. Include art as an integral part of your math curriculum with colorful and imaginative illustrations of concepts and lessons. Use visual patterns like magic squares to teach factors and other number patterns. Teach with manipulatives as much as possible, i.e. color-coded columns for place value, coin rubbings to teach decimals and fractions using money amounts, and incremental, color-coded fraction pieces.
Interpersonal Intelligence (“people smart”)
Your child understands and interacts well with others, and is skilled at assessing their emotions, motivations, and intentions. She’s good at verbal and non-verbal communication, seeing things from different perspectives, resolving conflicts, and creating positive relationships. Your math curriculum should include lots of group activities like math-adapted games, cooperative problem solving, and group projects that use math skills like building, cooking, gardening, and crafts.
Intrapersonal Intelligence (“self smart”)
Your child is self-reflective and aware, good at assessing strengths and weaknesses, understands the basis for motivations and feelings. She’s a creative day-dreamer who also enjoys analyzing theories and ideas. Include lots of “back story” in your math curriculum: history and biography, like the origins of the modern measurement system (the king’s foot, the original word for mile, mille: a thousand paces), the history of number systems, and mathematicians’ life stories.
Naturalistic Intelligence (“nature smart”)
Your child loves exploring the great outdoors, and has a lively interest in all things in nature, like botany, biology, and zoology. She’s good at cataloging or categorizing information, and likes camping, gardening, and hiking. Imbue your math curriculum with multiple examples of how math appears in the natural world, such as the spiral in the sunflower and snail shell, the hexagon in the snowflake and honeycomb, and even the octagon in street stop signs! Combine your math lessons with gardening, a wonderful mix.
Integrating all these aspects into your homeschool math curriculum will not only insure that your child(ren) will be more engaged and interested in their math lessons, but that their interest will result in better retention, higher test scores, and a lifelong love of learning. Math, more so than any other subject, needs to be taught and learned with high-interest, versatile, and creative materials and methods!
Marin holds a Masters Degree in Waldorf Education, and a California teaching credential in art. She’s had years of experience as a Waldorf class teacher in the early grades, has taught hands-on science and math to homeschoolers in grades 1-6.