At a very young age we knew our son had a gift for understanding mathematical concepts with ease. It is a huge gift, one that I was not blessed with, and it thrills my heart that he does not struggle like I did at his age. It was exciting to see him be taught something once and understand it for the long-term. It was cute to watch him sit at his chalkboard learning FOIL with his dad at four years old. But it wasn’t until he hit second grade that the reality of just how much he needed differentiation in math truly set in. Simply put, second grade math was much too easy for him, and classroom math moved much too slowly. And because of this, he started getting bored and frustrated. He not only understood things easily with math, but he had a passion for it. We tried to get him moved to third grade math, but there was too much concern from those in the placement meeting about logistics (third grade was located in a separate building). Instead, they decided to try out doing third grade math using Pearson Success Net, an online program that went along with the math curriculum. But that didn’t get started until around the new year, and only a month or so later the school’s subscription to it expired. So, we coasted out the rest of the year and decided to homeschool starting the following year. And here we are.
We had found Khan Academy in my son’s first grade year and before searching out online programs he could do at home. We fell in love pretty quickly. It was EVERYTHING we were looking for. First of all it is FREE, which still completely baffles me because of all that you get (I’ll explain in a bit). Second, it provides DETAILED data on how your child/student does during their work time. This is the absolute best part and unlike any other free program I’ve found. Absolute GOLD. Fourth, it’s self-paced. The work is done for you. All you have to do is keep track of your child’s progress to decipher areas that need extra instruction. And finally, it covers EVERY SINGLE MATH CONCEPT. So it doesn’t matter if your child is struggling with elementary math or integral calculus, there is something for everyone. Because of Khan, my son was able to complete Pre-Algebra in a month and is very close to finishing Algebra 1 in two.
Khan has already created a video to get students started in using the program. You can view it on their site or on their Educational Team YouTube channel. Or just view it below:
How it works:
I’ll break it down a little more for you:
After a concept has been chosen, the student completes a small warm up so Khan knows which skills needs practicing. Then they begin to practice. As a child practices a skill, their screen looks something like this:
The screen will show one problem at a time that the child has to answer. They have three options seen on the top right of the picture above: answer it and check their answer, take a hint on how to solve it or watch a video on a similar problem. They must get a certain number of problems correct in a row to move toward a mastery challenge on the skill. If they take a hint or watch a video, Khan will continue to give them similar problems until they can complete one without the use of help. Only then will the skill move toward a mastery challenge; it does NOT mean they mastered the skill when they just get one right with no help. This is a big misconception that someone tried to use as an excuse as to why this program shouldn’t really be used as a tool to gauge how well a child understands a skill.
2. Mastery Challenge
Once a child is able to complete all the problems in a particular skill without using help, that skill is moved into mastery challenge. A master challenge is the only way a child can master skills. They must complete five problems in a row without using any help. If they do end up using help for a particular problem, that skill gets cycled back into practice-mode and the mastery challenge is not passed. ALSO–and this is one of the best parts–once a concept is mastered, it does not go away forever. Khan will throw a mastered skill problem into a future practice just to see if the child still retains the info. If not, it goes back into the practice cycle. Another misconception by someone who was trying to argue with me about using this program for my son, and why I felt a need to explain exactly how it works. I have posted this before in a previous post, but here is a video of my son doing a problem from a mastery challenge, just so you can see how it works:
Once a child passes a mastery challenge, it automatically moves to the next skill in the chain, unless you have specified a skill to work on. They can be working on multiple skills at a time. Currently my son is working on ten or twelve. I will say that the only ‘con’ I can think of with using Khan is that the videos are not “flashy”, meaning they are very simple and may not keep some kids’ attention with all the visual stimuli they get these days with video games and shows. There are other sites out there that do provide more of these kind of flashy videos, but most are geared toward upper level only. My son likes them, but he cannot have anything else on while watching or he will get distracted.
As your child works through the program they can unlock new avatars and earn ‘badges’ for their work. My son totally eats this kind of stuff up, but some kids may not be as into it; it just depends on what motivates your child.
Data and Reports
The thing that sets Khan apart from other programs is their data and reporting. This is the most valuable piece, in my opinion. With many programs out there you would pay a nice price for this kind of information, but because Khan believes in the power of data and that everyone should have access to a good education, it is totally FREE. Every week Khan sends out an email highlighting your child’s progress for the week. I’ve created a video to explain how it looks for a parent. If you are on the fence on using Khan, watch this:
Here is another video put out by Khan that explains how teachers can use the data provided in their classrooms (and be sure to check out the slew of other videos they have of teachers and how they use the program in their own classrooms and intervention programs):
More From Khan
Khan has been expanding what they provide for awhile now. They have many sections, including coding, science, extensive test prep and many others. It even has an entire section on college prep that includes preparing for admissions. Math is the only subject area that provides broken down data, but the videos are quite helpful in the other subject areas and there are many of them. Their coding school is amazing and includes creating websites and learning Java, CSS and HTML coding languages. Khan’s videos can also be found on their YouTube channel (they have many, but this is the main one), so if you don’t want to actually sign up with the program but want to use the videos for instructional purposes, they provide them for you. Here are the lists of all the subjects Khan currently covers along with math (the percentages in parenthesis on the math would be what percentage your child has worked through):