Tuesday, March 11, 2014

This is a non-sponsored post where I share my opinion about free online math curriculum of Khan Academy.
Why We Love Khan Academy

Math Curriculums in Public Schools

I am not a homeschooler. My daughter goes to a public school and plods with her classmates through a math curriculum selected by her school district. I believe their curriculum is called Investigations. Its website claims that it helps all children understand fundamental ideas of number and operations, geometry, data, measurement and early algebra. What happens in reality though is that this curriculum is too fast for some kids and incredibly slow for others. I don’t think that it’s necessarily the fault of this particular curriculum (even though some of the assignments cause a triple eye roll in our family). It’s just a simple matter of averages – you cannot create a perfect curriculum unless your curriculum adapts to a student using it.

Math Curriculums in Home Schools

I have a lot of online buddies that homeschool their children, and I enjoy reading their posts about pros and cons of various math curriculums. Quite often I’ve seen one curriculum replaced in the middle of the year by something else and I applauded to parents who have flexibility to get rid of things that don’t work. However, these changes can be expensive and exhausting for children and their teachers alike.

Try a Free Math Curriculum for Grades 2-8

I wouldn’t buy a math curriculum at all if your child is in grade 2 or higher, at least not without giving Khan Academy a try. We are using it for about 2 months now with a child in the second grade (but working on 4th grade level in math), and we are all in love with it. Here are a few things why we love Khan Academy:
Khan Academy Dashboard
1. Math Missions that are aligned with common core math curriculum for US schools. My daughter is working through 4th grade mission, but it’s also possible to just go into free exploration choosing different topics from the “World of Math”.
2. Mastery Challenges every day where students get a chance to progress in the concepts they are learning. The number of challenges is limited, so students who work with a certain time limit are “forced” to choose something new to learn.
3. No blasted worksheets! Nobody in our family enjoys worksheets. Of course, there are problems to solve, but, most of the time they are presented one at a time. Khan Academy has a “scratch pad” that works reasonably well on iPad. We usually have a pad of paper nearby when more involved calculations are needed.
4. Created by people who love and “get” math. When I watch Khan Academy 3-5 minutes videos, I “get” concepts right away, and so does my daughter. This cannot be said about some of her math lessons in school that I observed when volunteering. It’s not that Smarty’s teacher doesn’t know math for the second grade, it’s just presented in a way that is not accessible by some and way too slow for others.
5. Most problems don’t come with multiple choice answers. My husband and I are entertained by dependency here on multiple choice answers. Kids in school are taught to eliminate unlikely answers as part of testing prep instead of being taught how to find the solution without a crutch. For most problems Khan Academy expects a student to type an answer and not to select it from the list.
6. Badges and point system are appealing to my daughter and provide natural milestones in learning. We celebrated her 50,000 points by going to Jamba Juice, so she is very interested in getting to 100,000.
7. Accelerated learning. Salman Khan didn’t create his academy to get everyone somewhere at the same time. His mission is to “accelerate learning for students of all ages”. It really warms my heart to see my daughter flying through fourth grade math at her speed of learning instead of doing dozens of worksheets on the same topic, because this is required by her curriculum.
8. Progress reports. In Khan Academy there is a concept of a “coach”. I can see everything my daughter is doing – how much time she spent, what she practiced, where she backed out of a task and where she was “downgraded” from mastery to “needs practice” (Khan Academy retests students on learned skills from time to time). As a person who love data, I enjoy this degree of visibility into my daughter’s learning.
Khan Academy Progress Report
9. Promotes self-reliance and competency. A student is working at its own pace, reviewing videos and practicing skills as needed. A coach is in supporting role, stepping in when a student is stuck. In two months I tried to step in once and was told to butt out. My daughter needed some time to think about the concept and then a few days later she “got it” and moved on.
10. I know I told it before, but this amazing program is free. I would have used it for my entire curriculum in homeschool, but it could also be a supplementary tool for advanced learners or for struggling learners depending on your needs.

The Future of Khan Academy

I am excited to see that Khan Academy is piloted in more schools across Silicon Valley. We have asked our school to let Smarty spend 30 minutes of every math period on Khan Academy to allow her learn math at her speed. I am convinced that the United States needs more innovation in its educational approaches if we want to stay competitive with the world, and Khan Academy is a ray of hope in a rather bleak landscape of math curriculums available to our students.

More Math?

Follow my Pinterest Math Board for Elementary school and my Pinterest Preschool Math board.

Your Turn:

Have you tried Khan Academy? Did it work for your students? If not, why not?
I am linking this post to my favorite Kid Blogger link ups and share days.


Ticia said...

Interestingly enough back when I was teaching one of the teachers did individualized math lessons like most teachers in primary grades do for reading, and I thought it was an interesting idea, but never quite implemented it.

At the end of the day we ended up back with Math U See, even though I don't like it aligning with Common Core, it just works for us as a family, and I was tired of trying all of the different math curriculums.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I need to try Khan Academy again with Emma. Math is not super easy for her, and when we tried I think the lessons advanced too quickly for her with too little practice. But maybe now that she has more of the 2nd grade curriculum?

Lauralee Moss said...

I am so excited that this is free. I saw your review and thought, "I'll read it alone when I have time to evaluate the price of the program." I came back to read your post and saw that it is free! I sitting down on it right now. Thanks for the information.

jeannine said...

I've heard many good recommendations for Khan Academy. It's on my list to review this summer as we may begin using it as part of our homeschool curriculum. I understand many subjects are available. It's on my list for the summer when I'll have more "free" time. Ha!

Lucinda @ NavigatingByJoy.com said...

We stopped using a maths curriculum in our homeschool a year ago. Since then my daughter (10) has been doing great working with me on whatever topics appeal to us from week to week, month to month.
However things weren't going quite as smoothly with my 8 year old (2e) son. He is a supreme autodidact to the point of being almost unteachable. He started Khan Academy last week, doing World of Math. I think this may be our solution! I need to figure out how I can view his progress so I can properly support him. I love your review. I hope your daughter's school is supportive of her (& other kids?) using Khan Academy during school time.

Tina at Mommynificent.com said...

I'm so thankful to have found your review. I've been looking for something and I think this is just what we need! Thanks!