A Khan Academy Moment

@MrBrettClark 7 Comments

I wanted to share a quick experience I had today with Khan Academy.  My 8th grade students were in the lab today working on their Khan Academy lessons.  I walked over to a student, who has had some major struggles in school, both academically and behaviorally, and I was shocked by what I saw on his screen.  No, he wasn't on facebook, twitter, or gmail.  He was working on logarithms. 

I asked him why he was working on that, just out of curiosity.  He said, "I just wanted to know what they were."  I asked him if he understood what was on his screen.  He said, "no."  I asked him what could he do to find out more.  He started clicking the hint key.  A few seconds later he said to me, "Is that really all you have to do?"  I told him yes, and he started working through the problems.  I checked on him a few times, and he started his streak over several times and looked at the hints again.  A few minutes after that, he said he had correctly answered 9 questions in a row.  A student has to get 10 right in a row to be considered proficient on that lesson.  I stood there and watched as this student got his 10th problem in a row correct on adding, subtracting, and multiplying with logarithms! This is something that is introduced later in high school.

The most compelling thing to me, was that he learned this, not because it was the next section in his book, but because he saw something he didn't understand and wanted to know what it was. 

To find out more about Khan Academy, check out my previous post, or visit their website.


  1. I had a very similar thing happen in my class when I introduced the Khan Academy as a way to practice math calculations.

    Three of my students tried out logarithms, and one of them aced it. Today a student came to me complaining that "logarithms are easy" and that they make solving some of the equations we have to face "much easier."

  2. I hate to be the critic, but I wonder if your student is simply doing the algorithm for logarithms, without any understanding of what a logarithm is. Could he transfer his new alogorith to a different problem?

  3. Frank - I understand what you are saying and I doubt my student could explain what logarithms are and how they are used. However, the point is that his interest in a math topic was sparked and he felt pride in his math worth. Who knows were it could grow from here?

  4. So where do we go from here with this student? How do we harness his new found interest and pride to get him to explore the real math that remains after the Khan Academy exercises and badges are over?

  5. From here the teacher focuses on how it's used in the real world. With this particular student, he's interested in military. So, you show him how logarithms are used to find the magnitude of a war and battle.

  6. That's awesome, Brett. Great to see KA being used as a vehicle to better destinations. I'm frustrated at how all the recent media attention has made KA out to be the destination itself.

    Looking forward to hearing more!

  7. Brett, I read your two posts on the Khan Academy. It is exciting to hear about someone using this in the classroom and having success.

    I was so excited when I heard about KA that I decided to finish all of the exercises on my own. It was sort of a game, challenge, test, self-improvement exercise. I am hooked. I play almost every day.

    I think there is definitely a place to the Khan Academy and similar tools in schools. I can see them being developed for many subjects. But I do agree with Frank: I think KA should be used as a vehicle rather than a destination. I think using KA can really enhance a regular classroom. If you had a good system, you could also sort students based on their KA skill levels and create new classes there.