Multiple Intelligences – What Does “Smart” Really Mean?


 4 minute read

“If my child doesn’t take Maths and Science at school he/she will never be successful.” Right?


We can’t all be master mathematicians or famous doctors. Who would create the music we listen to while we relax or exercise? Who would paint the artworks we love to admire? Who would write the books we love to read? Each and every child has their own unique talents and abilities. It is so important to encourage these, instead of pushing some ancient notion on your child.

Did you know that Richard Branson, the insanely successful founder of the Virgin Group, struggled at school and left school at age 16? Or that Charles Darwin, the naturalist, who coined the theory of evolution, hated maths and found it extremely difficult?

According to ‘Child Development’ and ‘Psychology: The Study of Mind and Behavior’, Howard Gardner, a psychologist, identified eight different types of intelligence. That’s right! Eight! In his more recent writings, he also speculated that there could be a  ninth possible intelligence. 

Linguistic intelligence

Writers, poets and journalists have the ability to manipulate and use language exceptionally well. People who possess this type of intelligence are very sensitive to the sounds, rhythms and meanings of words. If your child does well in English, Afrikaans, or other languages, and loves to write stories, he or she probably has high linguistic intelligence. Lawyers, for example, need to be able to manipulate language extremely well in order to argue effectively in court.

Logical-mathematical intelligence

Aha! Maths and science! These individuals can detect logical or numerical patterns with ease, try to use logical reasoning to solve any problem, and will probably grasp mathematical and scientific concepts quite easily. These are our mathematicians, accountants and scientists.

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Visuospatial intelligence

Children who are good at remembering pictures, faces and fine details possess visuospatial intelligence. They are often able to visualize objects from many different angles and remember information by creating ‘pictures’ in their minds. Architects, engineers, photographers and pilots all possess these talents.

Musical intelligence

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Unknown

Is there anything more beautiful than music? What else can calm you down when you need it, and then psych you up on the treadmill just a couple of hours later? Can anything bring out emotion so perfectly?

Musicians, choral directors and conductors possess the ability to perceive pitch and melody, and are able to express themselves musically.

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Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence

People who are able to gracefully control their bodies, like dancers and athletes, or people who are skilled with their hands, such as carpenters, mechanics and even surgeons, possess bodily-kinesthetic intelligence.

Naturalist intelligence

Individuals who possess naturalist intelligence are passionate about nature. They can’t get enough of animals, plants, minerals, rocks, space – the list goes on. These people include meteorologists, geologists, zoologists, landscapers and game rangers. 

Interpersonal intelligence

The ability to relate well to others is the key aspect of interpersonal intelligence. If your child is sensitive to others’ feelings, is a good listener and is able to detect and respond well to others’ feelings and moods, they probably possess this type of intelligence. Therapists, managers, teachers and nurses would need to have good interpersonal abilities.

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Intrapersonal intelligence

People who possess intrapersonal intelligence understand themselves – their own feelings, strengths, weaknesses, morals and values. They are usually very confident and highly motivated, like salespeople, psychologists and entrepreneurs. 

Gardner’s recent writings suggest the existence of a ninth intelligence, called existential intelligence. This is the keen ability to think philosophically and to ponder the meaning of life, existence and death.

Nurturing and developing different intelligences

I am not in any way saying that, just because your child struggles with a certain subject, he/she should give it up completely. This blog was to point out that there are other facets of your child’s intelligence, and that it is important to emphasize that. Focus on what your child is good at, rather than what he/she struggles with. 

Expose your child to different scenarios and environments. Allow them to experience many different things so that they can identify their strengths and become passionate about them. Encourage your child to always give his or her best in everything he or she does, and let them know that their best will always be good enough for you.

If I look at myself, at my past experiences and what I know about myself now, I think I am mostly linguistically, musically and interpersonally intelligent. However, I possess the absolute minimum bodily-kinesthetic intelligence – I am everything but graceful and have never been good with my hands. 

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It takes time for a child to develop and become comfortable with themselves and their abilities and intelligence. As a parent, just be there. Be there to support them and listen to them. Take time to encourage them and most of all, love them unconditionally. 


Berk, L. E. (2013). Child Development, 9th Ed. New Jersey, NY: Pearson.

Passer, M. W. & Smith, R. E. (2007). Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behavior, 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this blog. Post your comments, suggestions and questions below. I personally read and answer every comment.

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About the Author

Megan is a former teacher and one of our many awesome curriculum authors here at LLA! She is a soon-to-be mom of two and is always smiling from ear to ear.


  1. Onlet

    Such a relief for me! I have just found out where my children fit in. I am so grateful for this and I will fully support them all the way. Such talent i did not realise just because of focusing on one or two areas🙈

    • Ross Frank

      Hi Onlet! Thanks for your comment! I’m so happy to hear that you found our blog useful!

      Please let us know if there are any other blog topics you would like for us to cover in the future or if you have any questions regarding our content.

      Ross 🙂


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