In 1954, Mary Coleman, chairman of The George Washington University Reading Clinic, identified intelligence, creativity and athletic and social skills as categories of giftedness. In 1987, Thomas Armstrong, mentioned in "A Different Kind of Learning" {Style, Sept. 1}, adds some new categories. That's fine. But his blaming current teaching styles as the reason for students' deficiencies riles me.

He says that "90 percent of the kids in schools {are} not happy to be there." Where does he get his statistics? Ninety-five percent (I made that up) of mothers find it painful to carry and deliver a child, but years later find the pain worth it. Learning, too, is not always easy. Teachers try many methods to help their students master the best of thought as well as mathematical and other skills. I am a very personable teacher, but I could never compete with Johnny Carson. I would also find it difficult to accept a student's painted picture of a noun or a verb as an alternative to a well-written composition.

I don't think the karate champ could read Shakespeare's sonnets or learn the multiplication tables while executing a graceful kick. John Dewey envisioned "Education for All American Youth." We try. Unfortunately, public education does not have the funds, time or space to cater constantly to every student's needs. Therefore, we try to schedule individual tutoring for those students who can't master the material that the majority of the class can.

For the student who likes computers, we have specially equipped learning labs. Extracurricular activities provide a means of expression for the creative, the athletic and the socially skilled. But there are times in life -- figuring the tip on a dinner check, for example -- when one might need to add, subtract or multiply in one's own special head. (One might have left the calculator at home, or the batteries might have gone dead.)

I'm anxious to read Mr. Armstrong's book to see what new methods he advocates to help the child who drew "elaborate dragons with mythical heads that spewed out streams of fire that looked like flowers" write a letter to apply for a job. Teachers want to recognize native abilities -- but, most important, they want to provide students with the skills and tools to help them survive in a world that does expect conformity and mastery.

ELAINE B. TANENBAUM Bethesda