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The effects of the multiple intelligence teaching strategy on the academic achievement of eighth grade math students.

Education has been the platform of many individuals in and out of politics. Often, the topic is focused on school test scores, student achievement, and the demand for highly qualified teachers in the classroom. The No Child Left Behind legislation mandates school systems to adhere to a curriculum that promotes academic growth. Therefore, teachers must incorporate strategies that will lead to increased academic performance. This applied quantitative study makes a comparison between two distinct instructional methods: Multiple Intelligence (MI) and Direct Instruction (DI). The current research examines how these methods affect the achievement scores in Mathematics. The results suggest that performance on a post mathematics assessment for students exposed to MI will show considerable increase when compared to those taught using DI.


Currently a new definition applied to the word learning is one that recognizes the components of cognition, philosophical, and multicultural research. According to this definition, meaningful learning occurs when a learner has a knowledge base which when used with fluency, can make sense of the world, problem solving, and decision making (Denig, 2004). A curriculum that supports this perception is one that has a dual agenda consisting of content and process. This curriculum includes in-depth learning; involves student in real-world, relevant tasks; engages students in holistic tasks; utilizes students' prior knowledge (Kulieke, et al., 1990). Compared to the educational beliefs of previous generations, there is a shift in the theory, methods, and practices as it relates to educating children. It has been established that children develop and learn differently; therefore, it is essential that the strategies employed, reflect the changing view points. There are two types of pedagogy discussed in this study, namely Multiple Intelligence (MI) and Direct Instruction (DI), both of which have been shown to enhance the academic experiences of students across all content areas.

Statement of the Problem

The problem of the current research was to determine whether Middle Grades students achieve higher mathematics scores when they are taught using Multiple Intelligence strategies than when they are taught using the traditional Direct Instructional method. Subsequently, the aim of this project was to summarize and evaluate the subset of literature that has special relevance to the comparison of Multiple Intelligence and Direct Instruction. The standard course of study, the formal curriculum guide for the content areas of North Carolina (for any subject area) does not provide teachers with a list of methods they can use to adhere to the guidelines of the curriculums' goals and objectives. Therefore, the methods discussed in this research represent the trial and errors of one teacher who was trying to find a more proficient and effective method of facilitating learning in their content area.

Review of Related Literature History of intelligence

According to Traub (1998), intelligence is not a crisp concept, but a term of value. Theories about intelligence, but more specifically, general intelligence, have been the focus of discussion since the early twentieth century. For all intent and purposes, general intelligence, as defined in 1904 by Charles Spearman, is the kind of intelligence that is used to an extent in all intellectual tasks; it is what is supposedly measured by standardized tests, such as IQ tests and the SATs (Standard intelligence vs. multiple intelligences). Kaplan & Saccuzzo (2001), define intelligence as the general potential, independent of prior knowledge. Individuals such as Howard Gardner, the creator of multiple intelligence, has challenged the notion that intelligence is merely a score made on a typical standardized pencil-and-paper test used to predict success in school. As stated by Gardner, intelligence is the "biopsychological potential to process information that can be activated in a cultural setting to solve problems or create products" (Denig, 2004). This conception is the beginning and the catalyst of the theory of multiple intelligences.

Multiple Intelligences

A theory is defined by eight distinct characteristics, as related by Denig (2004); intelligence must be rooted in the brain; it must be rooted in our evolutionary history; there has to be an identifiable core operation or set of operation associated with that potential; it must be susceptible to being encoded in symbol; it must possess a distinctive developmental path to become expert in that ability; it is exemplified by the existence of idiot savants, prodigies, and other exceptional people; there is evidence from experimental psychology that the ability is distinct from other abilities; it is supported by psychometric findings.

Over the past couple decades, Howard Gardner, a cognitive psychologist from Harvard University, has developed a theory based on multiple skills and abilities; this is known as Multiple Intelligence. His theory is centered on the premise that there are many different types of talents or knowledge that could help to enrich one's life and respond effectively to one's environment. The end product of his research is the eight intelligences: (1) visual-spatial- capacity to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and to modify or manipulate one's initial perceptions (2) bodily-kinesthetic- abilities to control one's body movements and to handle objects skillfully (3) musical-rhythmical-abilities to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, and timbre, and appreciation of the forms of musical expressiveness (4) interpersonal-capacities to discern and respond appropriately to the moods, temperaments, motivations, and desires of other people (5) intrapersonal- knowledge of one's own feelings, strengths, weaknesses, desires, and the ability to draw upon this knowledge to guide behavior (6) logical-mathematical- the abilities to discern logical or numerical patterns and to handle long chains of reasoning and (7) verbal-linguistic-sensitivity to the sounds, rhythms, and meanings of words; sensitivity to the different functions of language (8) naturalistic- the potential for discriminating among plants, animals, rocks, and the world around us, as used in understanding nature, making distinctions, identifying flora and fauna (Gardner, 1993). In light of this, the application of the theory comes in the form of making use of instructional techniques that align with the standards and practices of MI.

Methodological changes made in the curriculum must emphasize using students' talents in the same way, at the same time, and in the same amount of time. Since analytics learn differently from global, and auditory, visual, tactual, and kinesthetic students each begin, reinforce, and retain what they have learned through different perceptual strengths (Denig, 2004.)

It is important for teachers to care about multiple intelligence; according to Kagan (2000), there are ten top reasons why teachers should care about MI in the classroom of which using of multiple intelligence in the classroom will better prepare students for tomorrow's complex making, making the curriculum accessible to all students, and making the content area engaging and exciting to all students are only three. Students should be taught based on their ability and ways of learning; active and involved teaching is a step towards students' academic success. MI asks the question, in what ways are students smart, rather than, are they smart. Teachers generally carry the belief that all students are capable of achieving; MI considers this and indicates the tools, teaching strategies that will bring forth such success (Denig, 2004).

A demonstration of the powers of multiple intelligence comes in the form of one school district's new vision of learning and evaluation of student learning reflected in the term multidimensional assessment which is a broad-based, relevant to real life, process oriented, and based on multiple measures which provide a rich portrayal of student learning (Kulieke, et al., 1990). Key School in Indianapolis developed a curriculum guided by the principles of Gardener's theories, emphasizing the abilities and talents students possess. The curriculum designed was in the form of an interdisciplinary program in that the strategies were woven throughout the curriculum. Based on the findings, Kulieke, et al. (1990) concluded that the limitations of standardized tests aided teachers in developing alternative strategies that would yield richer, more qualitative information about student achievement and instructional effectiveness.

The most important facet of any form of assessment, formal or informal, is the necessity for authenticity. Multiple Intelligences and its forms of assessment do not undermine the purpose of standardized tests, it simply offers different instructional practices that can aid students and teachers realize their potential, abilities, and talents while addressing the standards of the curricula.

Direct Instruction (D1)

A review of the existing literature in the area of Direct Instruction reveals little concerning its developing and just as little on its implementation. The research generated states that direct instructional teaching methodology is another teaching method that has been widely used across the United States. Introduced by Siegfried Engleman in 1968, DI refers to "rigorously developed, highly scripted method for teaching that is fast-paced and provides constant interaction between students and the teacher. It contains a vast number of drill and content" (Hoerr, 2002). Unlike the versatility of MI, DI does not make allowances for diversity in hands-on activities that reinforce the principles learned.

Direct Instruction purports that learning is taught and directed by the teacher and can be compared to a "banking process", where teachers are simply "depositing information into students as opposed to providing students with opportunities to express their creativity or utilize their assets" (Hoerr, 2002). The National-Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) reports that the practices of direct instruction may be effective when providing a review of a previously taught lesson, it is not necessarily effective when teaching new curriculum content to preschool and elementary aged students (Hoerr, 2002). Direct Instruction has been summarized as rigorous drill and practice for the information of a content area.

A Comparison of Multiple Intelligence and Direct Instruction

In the traditional schooling experience, student learning was most often measured only by testing: specific questions which were 1) tangible and structured and could be administered within a limited time period, and 2) usually tapped a limited number of cognitive knowledge and skills. (Kulieke, et al., 1990). Multiple intelligence and direct instruction are two types of pedagogy that have been researched and have shown to enhance academic experiences. The current research study examines how using multiple intelligence techniques as a teaching strategy as opposed to direct instruction teaching strategy eighth grade math achievement, student motivation, student task engagement, and teacher efficacy.

Statement of the Hypothesis

There is a presumed positive correlation between the uses of multiple intelligence strategies and the increase in academic achievement. Therefore, it is hypothesized that those students who are taught in an environment utilizing multiple intelligence strategies will have achieve higher academic math test scores than those students who do not.



The participants for this study were eighth graders (N=57) at a public middle school in North Carolina. There were two groups, an experimental group (N=28) and a control group (N=29). In terms of gender, there were 15 (54%) males and 13 (46%) females in the experimental group had and 14 (48%) males and 15 (55%) females in the control group. Both groups were represented by students from African American, Anglo, Hispanic, and American Indian groups. Over forty percent of the students in both groups were African American or Anglo.


The researcher generated a pre-test and post-test for this study. The tests were based on the information taught using either the traditional Direction Instructional method or Multiple Intelligence strategies. The pre-test and post-test were administered to both the control group and the experimental group. The pre-test and post-test were designed to indicate students' mastery of content before and after the application of the pre-determined instructional strategies .An additional benefit to this type of assessment was within the content based questions developed from the guidelines set forth in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study (NCSCOS) and the North Carolina Task Analysis for Middle Grades Mathematics. Both instructional manuals outlined the objectives to be mastered by students in order to pass the state given End of Grade examination (EOG); the EOG is a necessity for grade matriculation. The questions presented in the pre-test and post-test were developed from the class textbook, which was also aligned to the standards and objectives of the NCSCOS and Task Analysis. Furthermore, both tests were created in such as manner as to account for the learning levels within the classroom (i.e. test difficulty- easy, medium, and hard). Applying a teacher generated measurement tool garnered results that were considered reliable and valid due to the content covered by the test as compared to the time in which the content was taught and the administration time of the test (one forty-five minute class period). The test format consisted of written responses to mathematical questions. In addition to the pre-test and post-test, students in the experimental and control groups were asked to complete other forms of assessments (surveys, journals, observation data) that were factored into the effectiveness of the instructional strategies applied.

Experimental Design

The design used in this study was the pretest and post-test control group design (see Figure 1). The two groups were administered a pre-test and post-test of the lesson's materials following the guidelines of either Direct Instruction or Multiple Intelligence.


The researcher conducted an investigation of the effect of the use of multiple intelligence strategies on students' academic achievement compared to the academic scores garnered from students who were taught using the direct instructional approach. The researcher applied Multiple Intelligence (MI) strategies to one eighth grade mathematics and Direct Instruction (DI) strategies to a second eighth grade mathematics class in the same school. Students were given the same test, and then a calculation was made to determine the increase in academic achievement for students taught with each method. The researcher used a t-test analysis for non-independent samples to examine the collected data. A total of approximately 60 eighth grade students participated in the study. For one semester, the two groups were given the same lesson objectives, goals, and mathematical solutions. Throughout the duration of the study, both classes covered the same material, utilized the same text, and completed all assignments within the same time frame. At the end of the treatment sessions, both groups were administered a chapter test.

The instruction for the two groups varied in the following ways. In terms of direct instruction, the practice best applicable to this method was drill and practice; students were taught the objectives through teacher-directed lectures, notes on the overhead, notes on the board, practice problems from the textbook, teacher developed worksheets, and the student workbook, which accompanies the text. For multiple intelligences, students were engaged in activities such as completing logic problems, creating rhymes of remember mathematical concepts, building or constructing a model, inventing a board game to illustrate learned material, giving feedback on what they would like to learn, and performing a class presentation using at least one of the intelligences.


A t test for non-independent samples ([alpha] = .05) was used to compare the pre-test and post-test results of the experimental and control groups. It was found that the means of the two groups differed significantly (see table 1). Therefore, the original hypothesis that "that those students who are taught in an environment utilizing multiple intelligence strategies will have achieve higher academic math test scores than those students who do not" was supported.


Education has been the platform of many individuals in and out of politics. Often, the topic is focused on school test scores, student achievement, and the demand for highly qualified teachers in the classroom. The No Child Left Behind legislation mandates school systems to adhere to a curriculum that promotes academic growth. Therefore, teachers must incorporate strategies that will lead to increased academic performance. This study examined how Multiple Intelligences and Direct Instruction as teaching strategies affect the achievement scores of students enrolled in an eighth grade mathematics class.

The results suggest that performance on a post mathematics assessment for students exposed to MI show considerable increase when compared to those taught using DI. On average, the students who received the treatment, Multiple Intelligence teaching practices, scored approximately 25.48 points higher on the pre-test than the post-test, as compared with 17.25 points for the control group.

The results of this study are consistent with the larger scale research conducted by the creator of Multiple Intelligences and its principles, Howard Gardner, in which the purpose was to "understand and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional levels" (Hoerr, 2002). The results demonstrates the effectiveness of MI with the noted improvements in standardized achievement scores, performance of students having learning difficulties, parent participation, and student discipline. Due to the length of the current research conducted, two of the four improvements were observed: improved academic performance and behavior improvements. Therefore, it can be concluded that as compared with the traditional Direct Instructional teaching method, Multiple Intelligence garners significant increases in several areas of importance to a student's academic, social, and emotional well-being. In the classroom, this task is accomplished by developing innovative lesson plans that will meet the needs of a diverse learning population. Margaret Mead, a distinguished anthropologist, intellectual, and scientist stated it best, "if we are to achieve a richer culture ... we must weave one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place."


Denig, S. J. (2004). Multiple intelligences and learning styles: two complementary dimensions. Niagara University. The Teachers College Record.

Dillihunt, M.L. Ph.D. (2004). The effects of multiple intelligence and direct instruction on third and fifth grade student achievement, task engagement, student motivation and teacher efficacy. Howard University, 2003, 107 pages; AAT 3114619

Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple intelligences: the theory in practice. New York: Basic Books

Hoerr, T. (2002). Applying mi in schools. Retrieved October 5, 2005, from, http://www.

Kagan, L. (2000). Multiple intelligences: structure and activities. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishings.

Kaplan, RM. & Saccuzzo, D.P. (2001). Psychological testing: principles, applications, and Issues 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomas Learning.

Kulieke, M., Bakker, J., Collins, C., Fennimore, T., Fine, F., Herman, J., Jones, B.F., Raack, L & Tinzman, (1990). Why should assessment be based on a vision of learning? Retrieved 2005, from assess.htm

Standard intelligence vs. multiple intelligence. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12,2005, from http://www.

Traub, J. (1998). Multiple intelligence disorder. The New Republic. October 26, 1998 p 201 (1).

Onika Douglas, Graduate Student in the Middle Grades Mathematics M.Ed. Program. Dr. Kimberly Smith Burton, Assistant Professor. Dr. Nancy Reese-Durham, Associate Professor, Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, NC.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Kimberly Smith Burton at
Table 1
Post-test Mean, standard Deviations, and t Tests
for the Experimental and Control Groups


     Multiple Intelligence   Direct Instruction     t

M            79.07                 71.24          2.06 *
SD           14.58                 14.06

Note. Maximum score = 100
df = 55
* p < .05

Figure 1. Experimental Design

Group    Assignment    n    Pre-test     Treatment     Post-test

1       Pre-selected   28    Teacher      Multiple      Teacher
                            generated   Intelligence   generated
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Article Details
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Author:Douglas, Onika; Burton, Kimberly Smith; Reese-Durham, Nancy
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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