Monday, November 14, 2011

Update - Returning from a hiatus

I had the chance to check back in with my Khan Academy account.

There is a lot of gray on this map!

Since I have been gone, a number of months now, the Khan Academy has been happily chugging away, adding some new graphics, plenty of new videos, and a slew of new exercises to challenge me. Two of the challenges still await me, along with a number of badges. Unfortunately, things will stay this way for a while, as I have less time these days to devote to Khan.

Along with checking the academy, I had to check in on the state of Kahn's status on the internet. I was able to see a few updates about the pilot program that was going on in the Los Altos schools from the KA main website (

I also HAD to check in with the Action-Reaction blog, as Frank Noschese is an excellent critic of KA and before was carrying on an excellent discussion. To my surprise, there were fresh posts over at Action-Reaction pertaining to Khan.

I am hesitant to comment on FNoschese without fulling reading everything he's posted, seen the comments and his responses, and giving it some time to mull over, but with everything he produces, I just don't have the time. (How do you find the time Frank?!!!) So for now I will just go from the hip.

I really appreciate FNoschese's criticisms, and I actually think they are the best thing that could happen to the KA project. KA is a new and barely tested idea, and what FNoschese provides is some real world, really insightful push back on where KA fails. This is vitally important to making KA better.

What FNoschese also does is draw the spotlight on to some of the dividing issues around KA. For instance, teacher's feel threatened because it looks like they might be replaced by computers. While I personally don't think this is the case, I can see the real fears that people have when confronted with something like KA. This is a conversation that needs to happen, and the people at KA are playing close attention, I am sure, as to what sorts of questions they need to address pertaining to the relevant issues.

Technology will almost surely have a place in the future of education. We need more projects like Kahn to improve the overall system.

Here is a video that I will be using as a quick introduction for one of my classes this week:

Its not perfect, but it is my job to make it fit. In the future, I hope that I have the time, ability, and resources to make my own video that will fit better.

Go check out Action Reaction here:


Saturday, May 7, 2011

FINISHED! (well almost)

I have finally completed all of the exercises on the Khan Academy. I thought I was finished a day ago, but then I noticed a small green dot on my knowledge map. A new exercise had been added. This is a great sign that the work is in progress and there are more topics to come.

As of now my project is still not complete. I still have the larger challenges to complete along with a total review. Originally I intended to complete the challenges, and then go back and tie up loose ends with the review, but my first attempt at the challenges proved to be too difficult. I think I am going to need an organized review that covers the proper exercises, then proceed to the review. Once again, I think this is going to take me some more time.

Then engines have slowed slightly recently. Work and a new side project are draining time from the KA project, but I do still plan to finish. I was hoping that someone might catch wind of my attempts and proceed on their own with the same goal. I am sure someone with more knowledge, say a high school math teacher or a college math major, could knock this off in a week or two.

If you do take up the challenge, please let me know!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

One Exercise Left

I only have Kinematic Equations left. I have been busy and a bit distracted. I just picked up a 1200 page book and I took a day last weekend to carve out 100,000 points on

I got to the 9th problem on Kinematic Equations twice. These problems, I think, are a poor use of KA. There are far too many steps that involve rounding and I think doing the problems in different ways can yield slightly different answers. The tool breaks down here.

Regardless, I want to plug on. Tonight I finish Kinematic, then I only have 2 Challenges (could take some time) and an almost full review.

One note about review: I think once you have reviewed a problem set once, or maybe once you have completed the corresponding challenge, that you don't have to review again. My map is very orange, but many of the early exercises remain blue.

Off to work.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Homing in

I am nearing the end of finishing all of the exercises. As you can see on my my map, I am orange for some review.

I am down to 11 unsolved exercises. For the 4 sets of word problems, Functions 3, and Equations of a Line I just need to buckle down and do the work. For some of the exercises, like Functions 3, this will take a while, as there are many steps to many of the problems.

On the right side of the map, the Trig section, I am going to have to either look at many hints or watch some videos. I just don't remember the trig identities or the inverse trig functions. I was never good at finding the range of a function, and I think Inverses of Functions involves some simple trick I am forgetting.

So, with 6 grinders and 4 reviews, I am left with Solving For a variable, which I will admit I haven't looked at yet.

This won't complete my journey though. I want an entirely blue map, every thing complete and up to date. This means after I finish the gauntlet at the end here, the most challenging exercies for me, I will have to refresh myself on most of the exercises and do a few long review sessions. I decided to save it all for the end because when I begin a session at Khan I tend to lose some steam after doing too much review, especially if I mess up a review exercise and have to plug away through another full set of problems.

Completing the final exercises and the review will leave me one final goal on the road towards completeness: the challenges. I knocked off the Arithmetic Challenge and the Pre-Algebra Challenge. The Algebra Challenge was lengthy, and considering the difficulty and the increased number of problems in the next two challegnes, Algebra and Trig are going to be a feat. That said, I have some vacation days coming up, so I am hoping to make a big push and be finished before I'm knee deep in May.

I should add that by completing all of these exercises I will only have primed myself for greater things. This adventure will have polished my skills, but in now way will I suddenly be some sort of mathematician. My college Shakespeare professor used to insist that studying Shakespeare was akin to doing push ups in the gym. There is not often a direct goal in mind, other than your overall health. Well, I am viewing KA as a similar self-improvement tool, and after I finish I will be out looking for more exercises. I aslo intend to poke around Khan a bit more, maybe seek some of the medals and become more than proficient in some of my troublesome exercises. Maybe I can write a book on the medatitive qualities of solving derriviatives (easy ones) for fun, and spawn a new shelf at B&N in the self-help section. "The sine and cosine of happiness."

I took some time off from Khan over the past few days. I was investigating the hullabaloo around the internet about Khan. I was excited to find some other people talking about Khan, but their reviews seemed mostly critical and agenda serving. They had much to say about other learning methods, and many incursive thoughts about Khan and the KA team's bloated chest. I find this confusing at best. Khan is new and untested, and these naysayers seem to be responding to the high-sounding language surrounding Khan and especially its introduction to a public school in Los Altos. I asked a few of them if they had used the Khan Academy, but, being new to the blog world, I am still on my way to retracing my steps to where I placed these comments to see if anyone responded back.

In my mind Khan won't replace the classroom, but it is definintely pointing in the next direction, so we need to embrace it now and march towards the future , critiquing it soundly and improviong on its draughtly areas.

One particular blogger I feel I need to mention is Mr. Frank Noschese's blog here:

Mr. Noschese has a very nice blog and I encourage everyone to check it out. From the looks of it, you may have heard of him before because I see some awards on the site. Mr. Nochese's name seemed to pop up on many of the blogs that were talking about KA. He continually derided KA, and then followed up with some information about the Modeling Instruction Paradigm. I need to be clear here. Mr. Noschese writes very well, but his structure of argument is scattered at best. I think Modeling Instruction looks great, and a new and powerful way to teach physics and other subjects. But in no way does KA take away from or prevent a school from embracing modeling. Modeling could be used in some classes, and students could use KA during other periods to refine their skills. If anything, I think that KA complements a great program like modeling and the two should be used together. But from the tone of many of Mr. Noschese's comments it seems like he is against KA as if it is leading students down a path of skill learning abscent of any vaulable problem solving skills. Well, I might say that airtight skills will free up a young mind to develop excellent problem solving skills. When addition is a snap, imagine the other fun conundrums you could take on, not having to sweat the small stuff because you mastered it already.

Anyways, as I dig deeper I am finding I have much to investigate, and I want to save a lot of that until I have completed my goals. So, I will try to back away from the larger KA discussion for now, and focus instead on completing the exercises and challenges I have left.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Evoloutionary Classroom: How to take the bad aspects out of the Khan Academy

To make the Khan Academy a true success, we need to have many Khan Academies. We need different teachers each tacking the same subjects. We need multiple videos on everything from addition right on up to calculus. From here, we an unlease a sea of students onto the videos. The surviving videos will be strong, recommened to friends, tied to students with good test scored. From there we can teach our future teachers. Watch the good videos. Find what makes a success. Browse some bad videos. Compare and try to identity points of failure. Then go forth and make new videos.

I can't understand all the criticism of KA on the net. They offer man rebuttles and few solutions. KA needs to be embraced and developed.

A Probing Discussion about KA

I have to repost this website:

Here is a lengthy and probing discussion about the KA and how it is not all that it is worked up to be.

I think the author is fair and intelligent, but I have to disagree that KA is a bad thing. The concerns of this discussion are very focused though, so I will have to read more carefully and consider the points fully before bringing the gavel down.

Well written and engaging, I strongly recommend checking this out.

Idea for a Khan Style English Classroom

I'm still thinking about how to transition the Khan model to an English Class. I think a regular High School English class wouldn't be so hard. You could offer a lecture from a teacher that was familiar with a selected reading, and perhaps make a series of videos covering different sections of the reading, or different chapters of a book. For exercises you could assemble multiple choice style tests.

The ESL classroom could also use some effective software. I am working on 2 videos, one for simple sentences, and a second for a simple reading.

Simple Reading
The simple reading will be a video of a short text, including dialog, and followed by a walkthrough of three questions: one easy, one medium, and one hard. Linked to the video will be 6-9 more questions, following the models shown in the video. The problem with this model is that the questions will be hard to verify. I am trying to use and to build and accompanying set of study cards and a quiz.

Simple Sentences
This is more of a big idea than an actual possibility for me to pull off alone. I am think of the ESL market around the world. So many people out there are eager to learn English. Therefore, a very simple topic might be very popular.

I thought about introducing a simple sentence, such as "The boy kicked the ball." With pictures I could define the words, and then I could have the learner practice writing their own sentence following the video. The difficulty would be checking the sentences.

My idea is to build a database. Language is very versatile, so when you ask a student to write a sentence, even if you restrict them to 10 words and ask them to use "boy" and "kicked", you still have many possiblities.

The boy kicked the ball.
The boy kicked the cat.
The boy kicked the dog.
The man kicked the boy.

If we could pilot this program somewhere, then initially we would have to build a list of correct answers. We could take the pilot students answers and enter then in a database, flagging the correct answers. This would be time consuming at first, but hopefully we would begin to see some similarities between correct answers, and the program would become automated. The date would also server the teacher well in helping make follow up videos on common mistakes. This could be a very powerful system, but it requires a lot of ground work to start. Once it gets going though, I feel like it can accelerate learning.

I am still plugging away. Before I was beginning each day with review exercises. Now I am going to let them pile up, while I chip away at the reamining 20 or so exercieses I have left. On the weekend I am going to take a run at the reviews, and see if I can't knock them all off at once.

The wesbite is a bit testy sometimes. I have 2 other people working on the challenge now, but they are 2nd Language learners, so they are not looking to speed towards the final goal, rather, just improve their vocabulary steadily.

I have 435,000 or so points. I am almost halfway there. When the site goes down I love the fervor, and sometimes it doesn't come back for a while.

The other day I explored answering questions wrong in favor of gaining points more quickly. This is worth investigating, but even if this "game" is "broken", I think the integrity of the tool stands. It is modeled as a self-pace tool to start with, so if you want to learn, you will use it correctly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Let me make one thing clear: I don't know how to blog. But I have some ideas that I think are important to share about education, so I wanted to try formulating them and sharing them with others. I chose this blog to do so. There are many people that are writing about the Khan Academy on the internet, but none of them seem to be writing about what is going on there. They are merely reflecting on the fact that it exists. I want more people to get into the heart of it, try it out. I really like what Khan (the man) said at his TED Talk. Try it out with your children. It will change the conversation at the dinner table.

I appreciate the Khan academy model for many reasons, especially becuase it seems like a great self-improvement tool. Now I have found a second tool on the website I want to redirect this blog towards locating more of these tools, encouraging others to use them and seeing how that can change the world.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Each day now bring with it a set of review exercises. Much like they did when I first encountered them, these fly off the shelf. It helps that upon review I only have to complete 1/10 of the problems.

The remaining exercises are becoming a bit tedious. Functions 3, for example, involves simple algebra and arithmetic, but there are numerous steps that are intended to check your attention to detail. I set out with completing the entire set of 10 exercise problems, but I usually mess up on the 2nd or 3rd. My mistakes are easy to find, but frustrating to deal with. I suppose one part of mathematical training is an attention to detail, but I don't have the patience for it. I am stuck. I need more time to finish my quest.

In the meantime I have been hounding away at I want to reach 1,000,000 points and 1000 mastered words. I am 1/4 of the way through the points, and almost 2/10's of the way through the words. is quicker, much like the pace I began with at Khan. Today, reading a few pages in the book "Cosmos" by Sagan, I came upon 6 words I had recently come across on I think the site is a great tool, but not to be used in isolation.

I have 22 exercises left on Khan. Let me look at them more carefully.

Here are exercises I will have to learn, hopefully by hints, and if not then by videos:
Quotient Rule
Product Rule (I might know it)
Chain Rule 1
Special Derivatives
Expressions with Unknown Variables 1 and 2
Inverse Trig Functions
Trig Identities
Limits 1
Limits 2

Here are sets that I know but are tedious to complete:
Functions 3
Kinematic Equations
The 3 word problems: Age, Average, Arithmetic

Here are sets I need a refresher on:
Limits 1
Limits 2

Anyway, I am going to get on it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Academy is Down

At least on my computer. This happens all the time. Some website, for some unknown reason, just goes down suddenly. Thankfully I have to work with. has been taking up a lot of my time lately.

I have reached a good point at Khan. I now need to work through each exercise a little more slowly. I might need some videos in the future, but hints will probably suffice. I was seriously slowed down now by two exercises so far: dividing decimals and rate problems. The first is just a bit tedious, many steps of multiplication, your standard lengthy long division problem. The second was a problem with many steps, and some silly rounding in specific places which caused problems for me. The thing is you can complete the rate problems in many different ways, but when you round during those alternate completions, you get a different answer. The selection is not multiple choice, so I ran into many walls. I have will be very careful with them when they come up in the challenge.

I was thinking of logs this morning. I finished the log problems with relative ease, but I needed some hints at first. Those log rules, I never memorized them well. I should do 100 long problems and get my 2nd 100 problem moon badge.

There will be my auxilliary challenges like this in the future. I think I have to adjust my 3 week projection to something like 2-3 months. I rarely stop playing on Khan because I am bored. I can only think of 2 times over the last 3 and a 1/2 weeks that that happened. Usually I am interrupted. This weekend, hopefully, will provide some successes.

The laptop is also faltering. It needs to stay constantly plugged in now. What a pain in the ass. HA!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Another Great Site

Wow. Have you been to It feels just like the Khan Academy, but focused on vocabulary. You can see they track points and have a similar achievement system.

College and High School were both a wonderful time and everything, but there was a lot of watsted hours where I could have been drilling with a computer. I feel like I achieved as much in 15 minutes as I did in a long period at either high school or college. I mean, imagine using both these tools once a day, for 15 minutes each. My math and vocabular would be solid, giving me more confidence and understanding, and allowing me to get more juice out of the experience.

My head is spinning with the ideas of success in the future.

Thinking of Korea though, one problem with a tool like this is that it still won't prepare a student for the English on the Sooneung. This is because the test is written by Korean English experts, and Korean definintely has a different kind of English. So, I suppose we need more tools like this, tools for self study that encourage work and reward progress, and clearly identify and help to remedy problem areas.

It has to be impossible for writing... doesn't it?

Productive Weekend

If you look at my stat page you can see that I have been going at it now for almost 3 weeks. I think that was my original projection: 3 weeks to finish. That's not going to happen, but I did cover a lot of ground. This Wednesday will mark the beginning of my 4th week.

I am trying to get my friend to compete against me. I figured this my stoke the engines a bit, but as you can see by the stat page, I am already pretty dedicated. When I do sit down to Khan, I stay there for a while, if I have time. And recently I have been going every day.

But, if you look at my exercise tree, I have finally reached some topics that I don't quite remember. Up until now I haven't been skipping videos. I watched 2, but not really. I wouldn't give myself video credit. I checked the video on dividing decimals, because I couldn't remembe how to do it, but one quick flash of the screen where Khan is moving the decimal point solved my issue. I opened another video to show someone that website, then I let it run in the background. This is about to chance though.

I was always bad at the domains of a function. For other exercises up to now where I've had trouble, clicking on the hints for a few problems has straightened me out. But for domains I think I will need the videos, and there are quite a few videos. That might be the same for midpoints and reflective graphs. I tried to skip ahead to derrivatives, but I can't quite remember the special ones. I know the Chain rule and the Product rule, and I am looking forward to those exercises, but I have to be honoest, I was a bit slow learning them the first time, and I might need a refresher before jumping into the exercises.

I can't get over this website. This morning at work I was a bit foggy. I have a few things to do but I could barely get my fingers to type. I decided to brush off 10 problems on Khan to wake up. 10 turned into 50, then I had to stop myself so that I don't get carried away. This is making learning lots of fun. I think I need to devote some time considering what exactly it is that makes Khan so enjoyable. I dont' think it is a mystery, I think I am just having a blast now so I don't have the correct perspective to understand the power of this tool.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Status Update: Score and 1/2 the map

I am acclumulating more and more badges and I am almost up to 250,000 points.

When I look at the progress map it almost seems like I am nearing the end. The map has a peculiar shape, but it makes sense. The tree of exercises begins very thing, at the trunk, with addition and subtraction and the like. Then things begin to branch out, but the tree has a definite top, where the lessons come together with calculus.

I am a bit let down, feeling like I blazed through things too quickly, but I have to remember that this course of study is for a younger individual. My major focus will be filling in any gaps in my knowledge (which I am realizing there are some) and then branching out from there. Once I have my basic mechanics down, then I can explore other arenas. I am very interested in probability, so I will have to earn some high level badges in the arithmetic and algebra sections in order to fufil further learning.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fire and depth

I've been on fire lately, but I can see that slowing in the near future.

One thing I am excited about is the depth of the academy. There are many badges to earn, even after you have completed all fo the exercises. I am looking forward to sitting down for some 1 hour cram sessions and blazing through 100 circle problems, or similarly something with angles.

I am convinced now that the problem sets are not randomly generated, at least not for some of the exercises. I have done problem sets and knocked off the first 10, and even within those 10 exercises I have seen repeats. Still, this is the free tool. With some more money behind it and some more actual use by large numbers of people, we could put into effect the evoloutionary classroom: videos and problem sets evolving based on usage and correctness. It would be a phenomonal saving of time.

Still, how to go forward with a subject like English? I will have to investigate some of the surrounding subject areas on Khan, maybe science or history, and gauge how well they have been adapted, then see if they shine a light on the English situation.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Off for a few days, but back

I got busy for a while, but now I am back plugging away. I need to have another good 1 hour session of sitting down and working through exercises.

When I got back after a few days off I noticed that all my completed exercises had gone from "proficient" to "review".

This is slightly frustrating, but I enjoy the fact that they keep the pressure on you. One thing I would like to know is whether your exercises will go to review if you take a break or not. If you are on a power run and you want to knock off 10 exercises in an afternoon, only to find that your hard work is reset a week later regardless, then I think that is a bit of a sham. On the other hand, if you are continually working through harder problems, then within those problems you will be reviewing everything you have already worked on.

I also discovered more about the badges and the challenges. I did 100 addition problems in a row to earn a badge of that sort. They say there are different time limits for different exercises, but it might be cool to get a 100 in a row badges for something more difficult, like derivatives. This is just the type of competitive tool that would have made me a mathematical wiz in high school. I would have thought there could be nothing cooler than to go home and try to get higher scores than my friends on the internet math exercise tool

Anyway, I can't wait for algebra. I'm going to smoke it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

100,000 Points

I passed 100,000 points today while working through GCF. I still haven't watched a single video yet. Actually, I watched a few on calculus when I first discovered Khan, but since I began this venture I haven't had to move to a video yet. Division 4 might change that. I know how to divide, but I remember people talking about long division and short division, and I never learned the short method. I thought it was some sort of shortcut to doing long division, and long division is long, so any shortcuts are welcome.

Here is my 100,000 point badge.

They really did work out a great system for hooking into your competitive side, and that other side that people exhibit when playing WOW and collecting tons of imaginary items. I know these points aren't worth a dam thing, but to me they are symbolic of time well spent. I want to complete the Khan Academy so that when I mention it to people I can tag on that I've completed all the lessons.

I also badly want to know more about developing a site like this. I think the market is ripe in Korea for something to do with learning English.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Multiplying Decimals

Is there some trick I never learned to multiplying decimals? I have slowed significantly on this exercise, but not for any other reason than that there are many steps to one problem.

This guy Khan is really going to change the world. I have been trying to consider how you would apply this video/exercise system to the English classroom. For test prep you could start with certain kinds of questions and run through words, definitions, and then examples and practice questions. But I don't think it will be as easy to generate these randomly as it is for the math problems. Than again, perhaps the math problems are not random. Well, that detail doesn't matter right now.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Night time Khan Workout

It's 9:30 on a Thursday and I just finished a grueling day-long battle with "Multiplication 4." I feel rewarded because that particular node is at a point in the tree where, form here, things begin to spread. There are 3 other nodes at the end of this self-dubbed "beginner's realm." I am sure a 4th grader could have sped through to here in about 1 hour.

I was going along at about the same pace, with a bit of a stumble adding decimals (I claim because the numbers a aligned funny), but "Multiplication 4" threw me for a loop. I kept missing questions and had to restart my 10 problem streak. I made a number of mistakes, and I discovered a number of tricks, but a few of them were noteworthy.

First, when I was using the mouse to draw numbers I was much slower at thinking and drawing. I am not accustomed to using a mouse, and when I write I use my left hand, so I think these two factors played a role in slowing me down.

Second, when I finally got home from school and figured I should get serious and get past this exercise, I pulled out a small pad and started doing each problem, twice, on paper in front of the lap top. To my dismay I answered the first question wrong. The second question seem to take me about 10 minutes.

I think there is something to be said about warming up. Earlier in the day I was slow, but I never missed 2 questions in a row. I think using the paper was a benefit, but I think taking the evening off and then returning to the problems slowed me down and I didn't have the benefit of some easy warm ups (by which I mean the earliest "Addition" and "Subtraction" nodes I completed prior to reaching "Multiplication 4").

I came up with 2 ideas for this experiment. One is to return daily to "Addition 1" and complete 10-20 problems. I will have to do them carefully, because I want to get a streak in the thousands. I feel like this will gather some sort of attention somewhere in the Khan offices, but maybe not.

Second, I want to return to "Multiplication 4" sometime in the future for a similar sort of workout. This time, though, I want to warm up with some easy addition problems and see how I do. Obviously when returning I will have the benefit of having my daily practice to warm me up, but still, I would like to consider how the warm up affects my performance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blogs are dumb

Have you heard of the Khan Academy? I'm not here to tell you about it, you can read about it yourself:

or watch a video:

I liked this idead so much that I decided I am going to work through the entire Khan Academy. They have a nice map of the layout of the math program.

I ran into some early trouble when it came to adding decimals, but this was just a sign of rustiness. I overcame it quickly and continued to move down the chart.

My real trouble came when I hit Multiplication 4. I'm not bad at multiplication, but I'm used to doing it with a paper and a pencil. The program does provide you with a very nice scratch pad which seamlessly lets you scribble over the problem on the page. The issue for me was using the mouse to try and draw numbers on the screen. It slowed me down and let to many pointless mistakes. While trying to curl around a 2 or etch out a 7 my thoughts skipped and I missed an easy step in the multiplcation, resulting in losing the streak and having to start my mandatory 10 problems over.

My plan is to try and finish the entire map. I am projecting 3 weeks.