from "**Writing and Multiple Intelligences**," A Working
Paper

- by
Gerald Grow, Ph.D.- School of Journalism, Media & Graphic Arts
- Florida A&M University, Tallahassee FL 32307 USA
- Available at: http://www.longleaf.net/ggrow

Thanks to Piaget, the logical-mathematical intelligence is the most securely
documented of the intelligences. This intelligence derives from the handling
of objects, grows into the ability to think concretely about those objects,
then develops into the ability to think formally of relations without objects.
One of the simplest applications of the logical-mathematical intelligence
is in the quantification of observations--counting: a pursuit all writers
carry out when they work to get their figures right. Enumeration is an example
of the logical-mathematical intelligence's concern with precision in general.
At its peak, this precision produces the intricate proofs of higher mathematics;
on the everyday level, any author who communicates facts accurately is engaging
this same precision--and presumably this same intelligence.

Precision in language is different from the precision of thought demanded
by the logical-mathematical intelligence, but the two support one another.
Mathematicians, Gardner points out, must not only be able to reason precisely,
they must also be able to write down their proofs with precision. The idea
of the logical-mathematical intelligence directs one's attention to the
precision of language and precision of thought in a piece of writing--whether
the sustained structure of a long work, the organization of paragraphs,
sentences, or transitions.

The logical-mathematical intelligence seems particularly involved in problem-solving
and in grasping, drawing out, and showing the implications of an event.
Gardner portrays this intelligence at work when the Bushmen derive elaborate
conclusions from a few animal tracks, and when a mathematician works through
the implications of a theorem. Unravelling the logic of a mystery story,
piecing together the parts of a complex topic, prosecuting the case in an
expose, solving a difficult and important problem--these are writing activities
Gardner might categorize as logical-mathematical operations. The logic of
imagined worlds appears to be developed by this intelligence as well; Alice
in Wonderland was written by a mathematician.

The most successful application of the logical-mathematical intelligence,
Gardner suggests, is scientific method, "the practice of making careful
measurements, devising statements about the way in which the universe works,
and then subjecting these statements to systematic confirmation" (146).
These three steps offer an interesting perspective on the stages in certain
kinds of writing. You "make careful measurements" by collecting
information. You "devise statements" about how these facts go
together in a thesis, outline, or method of approach. You "confirm
your hypothesis" through additional research and revision, and through
writing the results in a convincing way. If you can't "confirm your
hypothesis," you shift to a different approach.

To sum up the scientific approach, Gardner quotes a description of Isaac
Newton which sounds like a writer in search of a way to organize a topic:

At the height of his powers there was in him a compelling desire to find order and design in what appeared to be chaos, to distill from a vast inchoate mass of materials a few basic principles that would embrace the whole and define the relationships of its component parts...In whatever direction he turned, he was searching for a unifying structure. (151)

One of the chief tasks of any writer is to find a way to focus the subject,
to condense it around a central theme, approach, or organizing metaphor.
Seen in terms of the logical-mathematical intelligence, writing is a search
for "a unifying structure" to organize and explain a subject.

Gardner cautions against the Western tendency to assume that the logical-mathematical
intelligence is THE intelligence that shapes or reflects all others. That
is distinctly not the case. Music, dance, and novels are driven from other
sources (169).

In writing, we perhaps think, plan, organize, and perform large-scale revisions
in structure through use of the logical-mathematical intelligence.

Exercises that challenge this intelligence could focus on precision, fact-checking,
organization, focus, revision for structure, outlining, and writing in analytical
modes, such as comparison or generalization from specific examples.

If your students have access to someone doing work on the forefront of physics,
biology, or another scientific field, interviewing that person could be
a valuable experience. Few things are as stimulating, or as humbling, as
talking with a fine scientist doing research on the forefront of knowledge,
a few steps beyond all certainty. Closer to home, students might look for
unusual examples of logical-mathematical intelligence--perhaps at the local
chess club, among players of the lottery, in quiet professionals like CPA's,
actuaries, and even in mechanics (whose problem-solving methods are celebrated
in *Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance*). Students could study
and write about the use of logical-mathematical thinking on the news and
in science reporting. Once you begin listening, you find signs of logical-mathematical
intelligence in surprising places; I recently had a wonderful conversation
after an unassuming tradesman who came to install a water heater casually
mentioned "hysteresis losses," and we talked about what he read
to feed the natural curiosity of his scientific intellect.

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