The Many Ways of Being Smart
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
Development & Learning
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Neuroscientist and educational philosopher Howard Gardner believes that our talents and inclinations are hard-wired into our brains. His Multiple Intelligences theory suggests that people are at their best when they work to their strengths. Gardner even advocates testing young children to see what their brain-based abilities are and then focusing their educations toward those.
Much of the American educational system is focused on only a couple of brain-based abilities: language arts and math. Kids who have natural talent in these areas excel in school. Kids whose natural talents lie in other area, like art, physical coordination, or music, for example, might have more trouble in school or might feel that school isn’t right for them.
Obviously, every child needs to learn to read, write and do math. It’s hard to function without these skills. But clearly not every school child is going to be an A student. This doesn’t mean the C students are hopelessly mediocre. It just means that school’s focus doesn’t match the C student’s talents.
One of your jobs as a parent, then, is to figure out what your kid’s talents and natural inclinations are. You can then provide extra-curricular experiences to develop those talents. Extra-curricular experiences can be classes or organized activities, but also they can be just your interest and support.
Natural inclinations can be observed early in a child’s life. Because they are often inherited, your own abilities, including the ones you’ve hidden from the world, may be abilities your child has too. What talents are part of your own intelligence profile? What do you think matches your child’s profile and the profile of your child’s other parent?
Language, including vocabulary, reading, and writing…. Word-smart people use words to help solve problems, persuade, entertain, or teach. They tend to be good writers and/or speakers. Crossword puzzles, playing games like scrabble, or telling stories tend to be enjoyable activities. I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Mathematics and logic…. Number-smart people like to reason, analyze patterns, and interpret data. They have a naturally strong number sense. They tend to enjoy games like chess, solving puzzles, and mysteries. Computer programming can be a strength. I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Spatial abilities, like art, architecture, and arrangement… Picture-smart people tend to be very aware of their environment. They have strong visual skills and tend to be artistically creative. They like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles, take pictures, build with legos, or read maps. I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Music… I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Physical coordination, speed and strength… I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Interpersonal skill in negotiating and persuading… I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Intrapersonal skill in self-understanding and insight… I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Affinity for nature, including plants and animals… I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Spiritual and metaphysical understanding, including morality and supernatural ideas… I see this in myself ___ my child ___ my child’s other parent ___
Now that you’ve noticed the breadth of interests and talents present in your family, find ways to support those. Some of these are included in the school day but some need your support in free-time activities.
Educate your entire child. There are many, many ways of being smart.
© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.