salman khan

When it comes to the way that this country teaches mathematics, most everyone can agree that we have a lot of room for improvement. (If you think that you do not agree, check the global rankings.) One man, Salman Khan, thinks that he may have uncovered the secret to teaching American students math.

Long Distance Tutoring

Salman Khan is not a math teacher. After attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for mathematics, computer science and electrical engineering, he went on to get his MBA from Harvard and became an analyst at Wohl Capital Management in Boston. He was working for Wohl when his niece Nadia called him in August 2004.

Struggling with her math homework, Nadia hoped that her Uncle Sal would be able to help her understand the difficult concepts and propel her to her school’s advanced mathematics track. Khan began tutoring her over Yahoo! messenger – he liked the doodle function – and, before long, she had been moved to the advanced track math courses. And her little brothers wanted Uncle Sal’s help, too.

Yahoo! messenger did not work as well for teaching multiple people, so Khan bought a tablet and began uploading ten-minute math lessons to YouTube. Before long, he discovered that students who were not his nephews were watching the videos. Then, Bill Gates called, wanting to speak with him about his revolutionary teaching methods.

Khan Academy was born!

Flipping the Classroom

In traditional classroom set-ups, students spend their time during school learning from a teacher’s lesson or lecture. While this may include group activities to check for comprehension, the bulk of a student’s work in the traditional classroom set-up will be done at home. (Hence, “homework.”) “Flipping the Classroom” is a set-up where students watch a lecture or lesson as homework the night before a class and then work through practice problems in school the next day.

Proponents of a flipped classroom say that it allows teachers to provide more individualized instruction and gives students the opportunity to work at the level that is best for them. Khan Academy, is the go-to for a flipped mathematics classroom.

48 Idaho schools currently use Khan Academy as part of a pilot program in flipping the classroom. Students are provided with a laptop computer to watch the lessons at home and then spend their time in the classroom working on modules individually. If they get stuck, the classroom teacher can assist them. (The teacher also has access to a number of tools that help them track where their students are struggling or excelling.)

Although the program has its critics, Salman Khan believes that Khan Academy could be the answer to America’s math crisis.

What do you think about flipping the classroom? Would you be comfortable with your children learning math this way?