If you know someone who is in need of a review of math, science, economics, or other common classroom subjects there is a new resource available to you. The Khan Academy is a place online for a student of any age to both review and learn in a new and interesting way.
The Academy, which is a series of videos, was started because Salman Khan was tutoring his cousins in math skills. Khan decided to take the lessons he was giving his cousins and post them on YouTube. As others started to respond positively to the videos, Khan decided to leave his job as a hedge fund analyst and form a not-for-profit organization to promote the videos and what they were doing to help teach people math around the world.
In March of this year Khan was invited to speak at the TED Conference about his videos and the website that goes with them. In his talk Khan explained the positive aspects of video-based learning. He said that students are better able to learn at a pace that they are comfortable with. With the Khan Academy, students can re-watch a video until they understand how to do a particular kind of math problem without the embarrassment of being around peers.
Because the initial videos taught math concepts, that is the primary focus of the videos and the website. There are exercises available for most types of math problems and a “knowledge map” that can show a student which exercises he or she is proficient at and which he or she can work on. The general idea is to start with basic addition and work your way through the map. Once you get 10 consecutive answers correct in an exercise, the website suggests that you try another exercise and move on to different or more difficult problems.
One way that the website makes things fun is through a game system that rewards points and badges for achievements. After over an hour of working through the knowledge map it was evident to me that the videos and the website work together to help a student get to where they want to be.
One of the things Khan pointed out in his speech is that in a traditional classroom, whether or not a student understands an idea, his or her class moves on to the next topic. He or she can get a C on a test and will be moved into new material in their next class. To combat that, the Khan Academy website focuses on mastery. By waiting for a student to get 10 answers correct in a row, the website makes sure that the student really understand an idea before advancing to harder work. This fills in any understanding gaps that a student may have from being moved too quickly through material in the past.
One other way the Khan Academy can be used is by the adult student who has not taken a course in math for several years and has forgotten some of the skills they were taught in school. Also, if you are taking a placement test or an advancement test, the Khan Academy is one of the best ways to prepare so that you will get a higher score.
Use of the website and videos is totally free and open to anyone. The Khan Academy is sponsored in part by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To help with costs, donations are optional on their website through Paypal. This website is a valuable resource for any student, including at the college level.