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At first glance, I thought Khan academy was a good site for teaching people math.

After trying it out, I quickly found that the topics were very limited.

So is Khan academy actually as good as I hear some claim to me?

If you decide to take one or the other side of the argument, please explain why you hold your beliefs.

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    $\begingroup$ For the topics I looked at, the treatment was at a very superficial intellectual level, roughly what I would expect for junior high school. They concentrate on working problems, but they don't explain concepts. $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Feb 4 '16 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ Also, when you reply: mention whether you have experience with students using Khan Academy and at what level. $\endgroup$ – Gerald Edgar Feb 4 '16 at 1:38
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    $\begingroup$ "He doesn’t use a script. In fact, he admits, 'I don’t know what I’m going to say half the time.'" But I suppose that gave him first-mover advantage, eh. -- washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/… $\endgroup$ – Daniel R. Collins Feb 4 '16 at 3:17
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    $\begingroup$ Khan is really smart, well, until you beat him by using that uber secret third dimension. $\endgroup$ – James S. Cook Feb 4 '16 at 3:53
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    $\begingroup$ Without being overly pedantic: I do not know what "really" means in the title. Are you asking whether KA is very good, or whether it is actually good? $\endgroup$ – Benjamin Dickman Feb 4 '16 at 5:22
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I taught gifted elementary students for over 25 years and feel my 4th-6th grade students benefited greatly from using Khan Academy with some direction from me.

The first time I used Khan Academy was with my sixth graders who were having trouble understanding why the distributive property was true. I showed them the Khan Academy's video on the topic so they could get a different perspective. The video really clicked with them.

Note that in general the videos explain concepts, but too often students just do the exercises and look at hints, resulting in much less conceptual understanding. I didn't have this problem with my students because Khan Academy supplemented what I taught and my students were often interested in the videos as a way to supplement understanding. In other classrooms, I witnessed students ignoring the videos going straight to the exercises and trying to learn from exercises and hints.

My gifted students were often perfectionists who couldn't also admit that they made mistakes. Careless mistakes often were dismissed by students who said, "I understand it, but I was just careless." Having to do 5 exercises in a row that were correct, with the computer grading them, was a way to insure that they really mastered accuracy and facts which are so important at the elementary and middle school level. Having to come back the next day to get mastery badges and points, motivated them to keep plugging away at skills they might not have practiced otherwise.

Gifted students who were ahead of the class were given chromebooks to explore new topics and practice old ones. This made running the class so much easier. I was also able to give everyone a chromebook and differentiate among the students. Everyone was doing the topics I recommended for them on Khan Academy. One advantage of Khan Academy for the teacher is that you can recommend topics to your students.

Students were also happy to get Khan Academy for homework. This is homework that I didn't have to grade, because the computer did it for me. I could check on the students and see how much time they spent at home on the topics that I assigned and how much trouble they had with the topic.

In summary, Khan Academy has wonderful tools for the teacher including recommending topics, tracking student time and progress, and built in grading. Elementary students can develop accuracy, become motivated, gain understanding, and build confidence.

I also enjoyed Khan Academy and spent countless hours exploring different topics.

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    $\begingroup$ That's very wonderful. I truly hope I can experience the same as you have. $\endgroup$ – Simply Beautiful Art Feb 4 '16 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ I would also add to your excellent explanation (+1), that the gamification aspect of Khan Academy, such as earning badges and points when you achieve something, provides interesting motivation for young students to spend extra-time solving problems and watching videos. $\endgroup$ – bluemaster Aug 24 '17 at 11:35
  • $\begingroup$ Great answer. Very hands on and very interested in helping kids. $\endgroup$ – guest Mar 22 '18 at 1:51
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In my view, Khan Academy should be used as one would (ideally) use a textbook: To provide students with an overview of the material and algorithmic drills so the teacher has more free time to discuss the nuances. I think Khan Academy is brilliant if used in this way. I personally learned to handle basic probability thanks to Sal's explanations. The trouble (as with any technology) arises when a teacher becomes over reliant on the method. Khan Academy has its problems:

  • Sal has a policy of not editing out digressions and initial errors from his videos. While this is commendable on the one hand (because it shows math and science as experimental rather than dogmatic) it may be confusing to students who are learning a topic initially. It's the teacher's responsibility to keep an eye out for those difficult bits in the presentation.
  • The exercises, while vastly improved, still focus heavily on procedural understanding. Again, this is not a problem if we use Khan Academy as a textbook of sorts, but if we don't supplement we run the risk of leaving holes in the students' understanding of a topic.
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Khan Academy has been very helpful as a supplement to my instruction in the classroom, especially for developmental students in higher education. I agree it can be confusing for students at times, as some topics are hard to find, but I occasionally set up a Khan Academy shell for my classes (especially over the Summer when my courses are online) to help direct them through the correct videos. Many students - especially the older or "non-traditional" students in my classes - have commented that the website is fantastic as a supplemental aid to the main tools I use to deliver instruction.

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I think that Khan does a great job as a resource for kids to check out concepts that they may have forgotten in the past. For my students the website did not provide enough areas for students to apply what they have learned. My kids enjoy Beestar which has provided them with learning the different concepts and applying them to their assignments. There is also a great reward system and it helps the students stay focused as they enjoy seeing their names on the honor rolls. The kids also get a chance to join their online math competition and end up being placed in GT programs at their school. Having a wide variety helps kids in learning different concepts and applying them accordingly.

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