Monday, July 18, 2011

Khan Academy

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

While I was eating dinner today, I was also reading a few articles in the most recent issue of Wired magazine. One of these introduced me to Khan Academy and how it's set-up is changing the teaching of math in some schools.

It piqued my interest, and I ended up spending two hours doing simple math as something for my eyes and hands to do while catching up on Pop Culture Happy Hour (my usual distractions being Minesweeper and chores).

While I probably won't ever use the site for learning, since most of it's stuff I already know and the rest I either don't care about or will be doing before the end of high school, I have tested it out for the sake of review and have determined that I approve of the program and wish my elementary school had used it while I was there. I will be recommending it to my mother (who is now the lead secretary rather than working in the library), and hopefully she will suggest it to the relevant people.

Khan Academy is a collection of over 2000 videos covering many topics, most of them math/science related, plus problem sets regarding the math. The teacher has flip-flopped standard technique and had her students watching the videos at home, and then doing the problem sets in class the next day, where she could observe their progress through the site's "Coach" feature and help when/where needed. It has been featured in TED talks, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given millions of dollars to Khan, who started out as just a nerd recording math videos in his closet.

The "Practice" area of the site consists of a flow chart of various math topics, some of which must be completed before moving on to others. 10 correct answers in a row unlock new topics, but an infinite amount of time can be spent on any given one. 

This allows a student to move at his or her own pace, meaning that some kids in the 5th grade class were about where most of their non-Khan peers are, and a few were doing calculus. Progress is measured both by the flow chart, "Energy points" (earned in varying amounts for doing pretty much anything- I have over 150,000), and by badges awarded for different things.

Meterorite badges are the easiest to get (I have about 40), then Moon badges (30), then Earth (3), Sun (0), Black Hole (0, and the site won't even tell you how to get them), and Challenge (1).

I am now a proud "Arithmetic Master," and have discovered that I still hate multiplying decimals, long division, mean/median/mode, and fractions just as much as I did when learning them originally.

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