The Khan Academy: I’m a fan

At the beginning of May, the William & Mary student who’s been tutoring the boys in algebra graduated and moved on. (The nerve. I can’t imagine why he doesn’t want to stay and teach my children instead of having a life.) In any case, since I won’t be able to recruit another math major until the fall semester starts, we decided to give the Khan Academy a try over the summer.

As a humanities person, I’m always very aware that I’m not doing math justice. We can do math competently enough with the standard texts. But even I know that the field of maths is much bigger, and much more fascinating, than mastery of a set of exercises and concepts. So I’m constantly searching for ways to help the kids think mathematically, rather than just “doing math.”

I think I first read about the Khan Academy in the Wall Street Journal. Salman Khan has undergrad and master’s degrees from MIT and a Harvard MBA; in 2006, he started posting math teaching videos on YouTube to help out a cousin. Now, the Khan Academy provides lectures, demonstrations, and practice in topics from simple sums through calculus (plus science lectures–we haven’t yet tried those.

I can’t evaluate the quality of the math instruction (although I find it interesting that Bill Gates is a fan), but I do recognize good teaching when I see it. The lessons at Khan Academy are clear, concept-focused, and just plain fun. My fourteen-year-old scientist will spend hours working through lessons and problems, absolutely absorbed in a math-world he’s never really visited before.

This is my favorite quote from the site’s FAQs:

What curricula are you following?

The simple answer is none. I believe that someone who truly understands the core concepts will thrive academically regardless of the curricular context. To take it a step further, I believe that someone who experiences the joy and satisfaction of true understanding will never again be satisfied with the superficial type of learning that most students have grown accustomed to. The Khan Academy is about placing deep understanding above anything else.

I like that. So check it out.

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9 Responses to The Khan Academy: I’m a fan

  1. Kelly says:

    I LOVE Khan! I have been reviewing all my very rusty math skills myself in order to prep myself for teaching my son, and my 10-year-old son uses it as his skills review. He does a set time of it every school day as a kind of math warm-up before his core curriculum, and then later I can look online and check his progress.

  2. Tiffany says:

    My dd was struggling with integers at one point last year. I was frustrated because I just couldn’t make it clear for her so I thought to check Khan Academy. She watched both integer videos and it was an instant lightbulb moment. The same thing happened for order of operations. Khan Academy is worth its weight in gold and how great that it’s also FREE!

  3. Amy Wolek says:

    I am thrilled to hear you like Khan Academy! My husband found them on TED talks and emailed me this simple message: “Holy Moly!”

    We let our 6-year-old try it out that evening and she LOVED it! She (and I) was so frustrated with math worksheets that we just love this alternative. I still plan on using Saxon math but this will be a nice way for her to explore math on her own and practice in a fun way.

    Here is the link to the TED talk if you haven’t yet seen his demonstration:

  4. This sight looks awesome! I can hardly believe it’s free. This looks like the perfect way to some reinforcement to the curricula we’re already using.

  5. ELaurie says:

    We like Kahn Academy here too. We used it as an adjunct to RS4K Chemistry this year and found the videos very helpful!

  6. Brian Wasko says:

    I’m a Kahn fan also. I haven’t checked it out in some time, but I found the simple, low-tech, conversational style of it appealing.

  7. This is just what we needed! Thank you so much!! I believe my daughter will be thanking you also. ;-)

  8. AuntPol says:

    We love Khan too. My kids who shirk at workbooks and worksheets will do math for HOURS to earn a virtual badge. My son says that the explanations are very clear and has fallen in love with Trig (he’s only 10!)

  9. Nicole Vollman says:

    I checked this out last night! Love it! My kids do to! I even like it for myself. Fantastic!!

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