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Free lectures let you learn math at your own pace

Kirsteen Wolf
The Broadside
With success in math, many students are in debt to a guy they spend countless hours with but have never met. The sound of his voice is so familiar—that’s all you know of him— that it is bizarre to see him talking in a video about his dream to bring lessons to anyone, anywhere. Google and Bill Gates have given him millions. Who is this guy?
It’s Salman Khan and he’s educating the world for free, through his site KhanAcademy.org.
Khan is a former hedge fund analyst with three MIT degrees and a Harvard Business school MBA who started making short math YouTube videos to help out his cousin who lived in a different city. He quickly developed a following. His site has delivered more than 140 million lessons from the 3000 plus video library. There’s a mini lecture on everything from algebra to the electoral college. In this vast collection are videos for those struggling with basic math concepts to those who want to rocket ahead in trigonometry or chemistry. But the collection is very math heavy.
The secret to success for some students lies in the repetition. If you are still flummoxed by percentages, you can watch the videos as many times as you like.
“Khan realized that remediation—going over and over something that you really ought to already know—is less embarrassing when you can do it privately, with no one watching,” according to a July 2011 Wired magazine report, a sentiment that Khan reiterated in his TED lecture.
Khan’s style is easily accessible. You never see him on the videos, you only hear him explain concepts to you while he writes on a black screen. Sometimes he struggles to spell something, other times he’ll scratch out what he was working on and start again. In short, the videos are homemade looking and low tech, a combination that can put a nervous student at ease. But the system wouldn’t work if the lessons weren’t accurate,helpful and well researched.
In December 2009, Khan told NPR that he was “reasonably confident that in about a year, the site itself could pay my rent and put food on the table.”It was obviously difficult to imagine his idea growing into a world-wide education delivery system that questions the way education is delivered and how people learn.
But just like the students starting out in Math 10 here at COCC, success comes after a lot of work and a little help from friends.
Even if it’s a friend you have never met.
(Contact: kwofl@cocc.edu)

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