About a year ago I started hearing about these great math tutorial videos that you could watch on YouTube. This guy was posting them and everyone was raving about them. Well okay, maybe not everyone, but he was creating quite a buzz in homeschool circles. I checked out his site a couple of times and thought Maybe, sometime, they might come in handy to help my boys through their math. Then I forgot all about it.
Almost a month ago, right after the math curriculum I had ordered (or rather, BORROWED from a friend) arrived in the mail, I saw someone interview Sal Khan on an evening news program. It was interesting. VERY interesting. He has taken his YouTube math videos the turned them into a free, online curriculum for anyone to access from anywhere, any time. So I checked his site out again.
It’s rather hard to resist just trying something out, when you get on the Khan Academy website. I began at the beginning, which is where they recommend students all begin anyway. My 12 year old watched me work through basic math problems, while peppering me with, “Mom, can I get on?”, “Mom, is it my turn yet? I want to try that”, and on he went. I finally handed the laptop over to him and he spent 30 minutes just playing around with math problems and exploring the site. And then more questions.
“Is that my new math this year?”, and
“Can I do this for math this year?”
I had to think about that one for a while. For about two minutes, anyway. “Yes, if you want to, you can use Khan Academy this year.” We were actually on vacation at the time, and he spent a couple of evenings exploring the site as we sat in my Dad’s RV (in an RV resort that had wifi.) By the time we got home from our vacation, my 10-year old had also decided he wanted to use Khan Academy for math this year. Our planned curriculum for the year is now collecting dust. We started Khan Academy two weeks ago.
Why I like Khan Academy… let me count the ways:
It is not grade leveled. This is a big deal in my family. My 12-year old has multiple developmental learning disabilities, and my 10 year old is not too far from overtaking him. When a kid in this situation realizes that his younger brother/sister is only one level behind him but they are 2+ years apart by grade… or worse yet, the younger sibling is ahead of the older one, it can be tough to take. With KA, they both begin on equal footing, but where they go from there is entirely up to them.
But my boys? They dig the Achievements! While they work through the problem sets, the goal is to get a streak, or a run of 8 correct answers in a row. Streaks get you points, which get you Achievements. Streaks also help move you along quickly so you can go up to the next level of difficulty and the next topics in the list. This is a very good motivator for my gamer boys!
It is video based. My boys both enjoy the videos, although my 12-year old likes them more than the 10-year old. It all comes down to learning styles. Can you guess which one of my sons is the visual learner? The videos are fantastic, with lots of good examples and the explanations are so clear. It’s math, in the language of nonmath people!
It is mastery-oriented. They are required to keep working the problems until they get a streak (or a certain number of streaks), and it then allows them to move on. If they know the topic well, they will get the correct answers right away, and it bumps them up to the next thing. If they don’t, the program adjusts and keeps giving them problems to work out. At any time they can click over and watch the video if they aren’t understanding something.
I can check their progress at any time, even while they are still working. They have this great set of Teacher Resources that give me all the tools to monitor and guide everything they do in KA. Teachers in classrooms have a big advantage too, because they can see at a glace, as I do, where everyone is working at any given time. The progress page shows the topics and who has not begun, started, is struggling, has become proficient, or is reviewing each one.
Khan Academy is being piloted this year in schools across the United States, where students come to class to get support from their teacher “Coach” and do more of their schooling at home online. This is the wave of the future, I’m sure. Of course for homeschoolers, this is the way it’s been for quite some time.
Math isn’t all they have now, either. New subjects are being added all the time! The next one I want to investigate is their Computer Science programs.
If you’re looking for a math curriculum for your upper elementary through high school students, you might want to give Khan Academy a try. It’s free, and according to Sal Khan himself in the interview I saw, it will remain free forever.
Disclosure: This was a totally unsolicited review. Khan Academy did not compensate me in any way for it, nor do I expect them to. I’m sharing this program with you because I want to support sites that benefit homeschoolers on a budget!