Khan everyone do maths?

Posted by Glen on Nov 15, 2015

The work set out by the Khan academy, has revolutionized the way the classroom dynamic works, where Khan argues that the academy has provided much more time to be able to work on those struggling, or allow for the growth of students helping students in a classroom dynamic, and i believe this is very much the case. After having a look at some basic lessons on the Khan academy website i believe that the website provides a service to teachers that not only allows students to get maths in a relaxed environment, but also in a way that provides the opportunity to see who is struggling when and where. You hear it everyday in classes, the quintessential “I don’t get this” or “I’m not good at maths” and like Willingham (2009) argues in his work, we have to some extent become conditioned to this attitude, that this is an acceptable attitude to have, and that society has accepted that you are either good or not good at maths. Obviously we know this isn’t the case, and Willingham (2009) explored this even further when he looked at what it is like to learn maths, likening it to learning to read, Willingham argues that the human brain has the capacity to understand and learn mathematics, like we learn any other essential academic skill. I like this approach to the “I don’t get it” argument, because it takes away the element of predisposition when it comes to mathematical ability, or indeed any subject, and puts students in the driving seat to their own success, with teaching and all the tools we have available as the map and the fuel etc etc. This is where i believe the Khan academy, and online learning in general provides such a service to the classroom, and indeed to the pursuit of study, because it empowers not only teachers to be able to work around a topic in a way that doesn’t have to be taught through the archetypal stand up in class and teach to everyone, but instead presents teachers with a real opportunity to work with students from the ground up, but more importantly to allow students to learn in a an environment outside of the classroom, in a pace they can control, for their own success and not because they have a curriculum to meet. Willingham puts forward the idea that to learn maths you need to have 3 different types of knowledge at your disposal to be ready to be used at any point, “Factual”, “Procedural” and “Conceptual” While the first is solely focused on a set of numerical statements reserved in your long term memory for you to work from or to do quickly, the last two can be likened to some extent in my opinion to instrumental and relational understanding. Like in previous blog posts, the overall argument isn’t to teach students to be able to use the tools to pass exams (while that may be our jobs) we have to teach students to appreciate the subject in a manner beneficial to them, and i thoroughly believe that if we continue down the path of the Khan academy and similar teaching styles we can really get to that stage. So Khan everyone learn maths? of course they Khan, but we need to teach everyone to love maths as well!


  1. Stephen
    17 November 2015

    I really enjoyed the way you summarised your post at the end. The Khan academy allows anyone to learn maths however it doesnt necessarily provide many chances for students to use their creativity. It seems to lack much context to the maths we use and appears to encourage students to think of maths as building blocks to go ever higher. I think it is a great resource however there is so much to explore in maths from basic thoughts that perhaps students become too enraptured with doing better and harder problems rather than spending time enjoying the simpler maths they learn.

  2. Sergio
    22 November 2015

    Glen you made some great points about Khan Academy’s usefulness to teachers and students! I agree with you completely about how online learning gives teachers more freedom in how they teach a topic and takes off some of the pressure from the curriculum!

    Also for a student who enjoys learning Maths and likes working in their own environment Khan Academy is great like you say! But I’m not entirely convinced that we can convince everyone to love Maths (Although that would be great!) and thus I’m not sure how well it would do for them. In my experience a lot of kids can do half-hearted work on the computer because they do it in their home environment surrounded by their distractions. The data we get from Khan Academy might not always be reflective of their ability in that sense because the student needs to engage with the website in order for the data to be accurate.

  3. pepsmccrea
    23 November 2015

    Good to see you engage with both articles and look for connections between them. In future, I’d be keen to see you taking a slightly more balanced approach to analysis, looking at both the pros and cons before reaching a considered conclusion.

  4. pepsmccrea
    23 November 2015

    Oh, and paragraphs next time please!

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