The Pinball machine theory of education

Four learning styles (McCarthy, 1997), and then there are multiple “intelligences” (Smith, 2002, 2008)… All this just keeps getting more complicated. One can divide pupils into four different styles, but even within these styles, there are, apparently, different natural abilities, intelligences, with which one is born… Certainly, dividing complex human beings into merely four rough types was coarse. This makes the labelling more precise!

The Shadow Pinball Machine-98; pinball theory of educationCreative Commons License PinballRobin via Compfight

It’s amazing how different people can be with these scores. I feel better about this whole thing with more and more intelligences being added. Gardner started out with seven. Nature was a recent addition. Now apparently there’s a moral intelligence, and they’re bandying about “existential”…(Smith, 2002, 2008).

Maybe if we can keep working up these intelligences, we can move that 4 sided square that McCarthy came up with to a cube, or to at least a geodesic dome. I look at myself and don’t see any sharp edges. Labelling flattens a person into a 2D cartoon. If you’re going to do it, try to do it right!

Maybe we should make an edge theory. Intelligences could be placed graphically on a three dimensional model, to at least make believe this is holistic. Now, the problem will be where to place each intelligence! For that, we need… an edge theory! By defining which intelligences sit next to each other, we should be able to work out placement on that geodesic “dome”.

Perhaps “musical” and “language” share an edge. Training in music helps math acquisition (Cheek et al, 1999), so lets put math next to music.

“Self” of course only makes sense next to “social”, as they contrast. Or, perhaps they are on the other side of the planet, as it were. Perhaps we should write some papers on this.

I would put “body movement” and “nature” side by side. Don’t know why, sort of fits. I guess.

Did I leave anything out? Oh, perhaps “moral” and “existential” exist in the vapour in the middle of the dome.

Of course, there may be people who may be more “edge” people. You know, the “music/language” people. They must have some unique attributes. And, because they’re sitting on an edge, they will have some pain, so there must be some problems associated. Perhaps they are determined to sing when playing an instrument. Yes, that’s it. Write it down.

I suppose we could colour the dome. I’ve heard there’s a whole colour theory. Haven’t read about it, but I get it. Red people are sort of type 2. No, sorry, this is basically Gardner. Multiple intelligences, not four learning types. I know, we could still colour it. Perhaps the 4MAT teaching types (McCarthy, 1997) are the glue, the tacks that hold the dome together! Now, we’re getting somewhere! A cohesive theory of learning type, and intelligence…

No, hold it. There are the continuums. For example, reflecting to acting. Therefore, the dome, coloured, glued together, holding within the ether of morality and existentialism, would roll surface to surface, bumping over edges, along a continuum of reflecting to acting. No, the reflecting would be a stationary position. The movement itself would be the action…

More than one continuum though. Well, we could make it a pin-ball machine! YES!, the pinball machine theory of EDUCATION!! The flippers could be trauma! Yes! Now we’re working in how the geodesic dome can interact with the environment! The classroom!

To flip the dome, you use testing. Testing itself could be classified into different types of pinball wizardry. With the right kind of testing, you should be able to launch the dome through the flashing lights for extra points…

Now, the flashing lights…




Cheek, JM and Smith, LR. (1999). Music Training and mathematics achievement.



Smith, M.(2002, 2008). Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences, the encyclopedia of informal education.


McCarthy, B. (1997). A Tale of Four Learners: 4MAT’s Learning Styles. ASCD:Learn, Teach,

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