Maths was always my Achilles heel. Hell, it was my Achilles foot, femur, and hip. And even now, the most basic maths problems can reduce me to a confused gibbering wreck. So it was with great relief when I finally reached the school age where i could choose to stop maths and concentrate on the Arts.
But these days, I’m regretting not paying more attention in school. Because now I have school age kids who also aren’t good at maths, and my job as a parent is to help them with their homework.
And I’ve got double trouble because not only do I have to find a lucid way of explaining maths but I have to do it in English, and then repeat it in Dutch to make sure they’ve got it. Yikes.
So when I stumbled upon The Khan Academy, I saw a ray of light that’s been growing into a veritable golden globe of excitement as I watched the You Tube videos and then heard his TED talk. My kids aren’t exactly bilingual, but can understand pretty well, and I know one thing – that anything on a video is going to hold their attention more than me blahhing on.
And the proof is in the numbers. 1 million students watching 100-200,000 videos a day from all subjects ranging from basic maths (1+1=) to calculus, history, politics and economics.
Salman Khan used to be an analyst with a hedge fund in the US. He started helping his cousins at the other end of the country by loading simple lessons on video and seeing no reason to keep it private, he did it on You Tube. A steady stream or comments and responses from strangers around the world turned into an avalanche and pretty soon, Bill Gates was saying publicly that he watched Khan Academy videos with his kids, and The Khan Academy went viral.
The key to the success of the videos as a learning tool is that Salman Khan is personable and funny and is totally non threatening in his teaching methods. And its geared to each child (or adult) learning in their own way at their own pace. When they get one problem, they move on to the next at their own pace.
Salman Khan has since given up his job for the project, now an official not for profit organization, has a team behind him working on the jet powered technics of it, is in talks with schools about incorporating the videos as part of a different kind of learning curriculum and has ambitions of turning The Khan Academy into a global e-learning school where a street boy in Calcutta may one day be able to tutor a middle class kid in the US
It’s the first time I’ve heard someone talk about maths education in a way that’s moved me to tears.