Programs and space for creative people.

/ Freeman


I’m trying to complete the Algebra Mission on Khan Academy. It’s taking quite some effort. I know most of the math, though occasionally I bump up against some things I don’t quite remember. When I do I watch the videos.

It’s a bit of a slog and reminds me of the sensations of being in math class 30 years ago. There’s a positive sensation ‘ooh, I’m good’ and a negative sensation ‘how am i supposed to know whether 288 is approximately 290’ and even more commonly ‘I have never and will never use this’.

What I like about Khan Academy is the regimen. If I don’t know what I’m doing I know I can go over to Khan Academy and push the needle forward on my Algebra mission. In my life I have found remarkably few (digital) projects where progress was so well defined.

A slight tangeant: This is something I really like about physical work. When I’m building pallet racks for Jaaga or Burningman I’m almost always clear about what the next thing I need to do to push the project forward.

As I go through this I see some elements of Khan Academy that I find super useful for measuring and motivating progress. I love that KA tracks the time I spend working on the site. I have started to use this as my target metric. ie. I’d like to put in 1 hour on Khan Academy in the mornings. I also see that this could be very useful from a coach perspective in setting goals for students.

I’m a big fan of badges, but the KA badges and energy points just feel like candy to me right now. Maybe if I was competing with other people it would be different.

Thinking about how this is going to work for non-native English speakers, I can definitely see some issues. The simple math problems translate well. My experience with even very young village kids is that they all know their numbers and basic arithmetic symbols. They’re also extremely adept at intuitively figuring out what button they should press to go to the next page. Word problems and videos are going to be more difficult.

Word problems are popping up all the time for me, and every time they do I need to sit back and figure out what they’re talking about. Generally I feel they are well written, but from a village kid perspective they’re going to be almost impenetrable. I have this fantacy that this could be a good opportunity to learn English. Kids copy the text into Google Translate. Even better would be to generate vocabulary flash cards based on what they were learning.

I asked one of my Jaaga Study students to translate Khan academy lessons into Tamil. He came back and said he didn’t know Tamil well enough to translate many of the words and phrases. So, I think integrating language lessons in with Khan Academy is going to take some thought.