Thursday, July 5, 2012

Khan & Its Critics

Important (and long) post from Keith Devlin on the skirmishes between Khan Academy and its critics here (includes many good links as well):

...should be read by everyone interested in math education (...but then that probably goes for everything Keith writes!)

"Learning mathematics is hard. Very hard. It is easy to get discouraged and give up. Some of us, when we are learning math the first time, are lucky enough to have a parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt, older sibling, or family friend who can sit down alongside us and help us. I suspect that a great many of today’s professional mathematicians owe their eventual success in the subject to someone who mentored them in the early days.

"But not everyone has such a person in their lives. At least, they did not until Sal Khan came along: friendly, non-threatening, patient, and a good explainer (actually not brilliant, but that might be all to the good, since a brilliant instructor could easily discourage a less-brilliant student). Above all, human. A regular guy. Just think about that for a moment. It’s a valuable weapon in the educational landscape....
"...Then Bill Gates comes along, and KA goes global. Expectations change. Now things have gotten more tricky. When a resource like KA becomes the primary vehicle by which millions of people acquire many or all of their mathematical skills, the stakes become dramatically higher than when it was a one-man homework-help service. Like it or not, ask for it or not, KA now has (in my view) an obligation to get things right. Doing so without destroying a major part of its appeal, is clearly going to be tricky."

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