Math Videos Go From YouTube Hit To Classroom Tool Former hedge fund manager Salman Khan first made short videos to help his young cousins learn math and science. They became wildly popular online, and now, some adventurous school districts are trying to bring Khan's approach into the classroom.
NPR logo

Math Videos Go From YouTube Hit To Classroom Tool

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Math Videos Go From YouTube Hit To Classroom Tool

Math Videos Go From YouTube Hit To Classroom Tool

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


A lot of struggling math students have found comfort in the sound of this man's voice.

SALMAN KHAN: Welcome to the presentation on using the quadratic equation.

NORRIS: NPR's Larry Abramson reports on the first effort to bring Khan's approach into the classroom.

LARRY ABRAMSON: Unidentified Child #2: Okay, one-half, what? 2X, oh yeah, okay.

ABRAMSON: This school is part of a pilot program at Santa Rita Elementary School in Los Altos, California. They're making the Khan Academy an integral part of the math curriculum. Teacher Cami Thordarson says, for half-an-hour a day, Khan Academy dunks these students into a completely self-paced world.

CAMI THORDARSON: They're all in different places. Some of them are working on calculus and high school math. Some of them are working on multiplication of decimals, and that's okay.

ABRAMSON: It's okay because students who need help can look up the appropriate video and listen to the Academy's explanation of concepts like direct and inverse variation.

KHAN: So I'll do direct variation on the left over here and I'll do inverse variation or two variables that vary inversely on the right-hand side over here.

ABRAMSON: Salman Khan scribbles on the video screen and guides students along with his signature approach: patient and unthreatening. Cami Thorderson says kids are comfortable turning to Khan for help.

THORDERSON: It's kind of a private thing. It's not like you have to raise your hand in front of the whole class and say I don't get this. You can go not get it on your own and nobody needs to know about it.

ABRAMSON: Unidentified Child #3: So you square that. That's 36. And you square that, that's nine.

ABRAMSON: Some kids, like Hannah Albright, work on their own, following online exercises as they do calculations on a whiteboard or with pencil and paper.

HANNAH ALBRIGHT: Ninety minus seven, and then that would be 83. It's like an online teacher. They can help you anywhere.

ABRAMSON: You can go as fast as you want.

ALBRIGHT: Yeah, and you don't have to wait.

SIEGEL: Are we going to do - I need help...

ABRAMSON: Next door, in Kelly Rafferty's class, kids put their names on the board. Some want help on a concept; others offer to teach something they've mastered. Rafferty says that Khan helps her deal with the big class sizes that even this affluent district is facing.

KELLY RAFFERTY: Khan has definitely helped me reach all of the students. So when you have that many kids, you end up sort of teaching to the middle, and Khan has allowed me to reach the lowest and the highest.

ABRAMSON: Much more than a textbook would, Rafferty says. Khan Academy also offers a kind of back office function. While kids are working independently on exercises, Rafferty checks her computer to see how they are doing.

RAFFERTY: So with this, I can look at all the kids and I can see who's struggling, who's not, which they've passed, how many it took for them to pass. So it gives me a lot more information.

ABRAMSON: Information she can use to see who needs extra help. Santa Rita Elementary Principal Sandra McGonagle says for her, the Khan Academy has some big advantages over other math materials.

SANDRA MCGONAGLE: One, it's free, and it's created by people who really just love math. And the quality is so great.

ABRAMSON: Unidentified Woman: Okay, yeah, yeah.

ABRAMSON: Larry Abramson, NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.