Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Everything Old is New Again: Adventures in Khan Academy

One of the things I decided I wanted to do more of back in December (remember, I don't do New Year's Resolutions, I try to ingrain habits before January 1st whenever possible ;) ) was to look back at the areas of my knowledge that I once knew or learned, but that time and inattention have seriously atrophied. For me, one of those areas is Mathematics.

Granted, I use programs, spreadsheets, and calculators quite a bit. I can manipulate formulas and compare results as good as anyone, but how well do I really remember even the most rudimentary of skills? How do I find the area of a trapezoid? Can I do Greatest Common Factors and Least Common Multiples quickly in my head? How much Geometry do I really remember? How about Calculus? OK, to be fair, I made it through first-semester Calculus in college and was overjoyed to have received a good grade. I then stopped due to time and work constraints, so I only got so far.

Khan Academy has what I consider to be a neat collection of Mathematics courses and challenges that you can work through. They have Mathematics topics broken down by discipline, as well as by what grade (K-8 and High School) they represent. At the moment, I'm reviewing 6th Grade math (hey, you have to start somewhere, right ;)?). They have individual modules that you can practice, videos that talk about the concepts, and mastery challenges you can perform and record your progress. My current goal, alongside keeping up a streak as long as I can, is to get to 100% mastery on all math levels through high school. As you can see, I have plenty to do still:


As a kid, I used to consider Math to be the bane of my existence. Now? It's fun! What's more, I'm realizing how many things I learned one way, but are now being taught in a slightly different manner. It's been fun to see the differences and how some of the explanations are better than what I learned, and how I still reactively use the tools I was given several decades ago because, well, that's what I mastered and still consider "my way" of doing it. Perhaps more interesting is looking back and realizing that I either learned many of these things much later than the grade they correspond with or that I never learned them at all, at least not in this context.

Khan Academy does a great job at focusing on the basics, and I'd like to challenge my readers out there to pick an area they'd like to develop a better proficiency. Like me, you may discover that you'll be eating a few pieces of humble pie along the way, but you may also unlock a fun new pastime looking at something you may have long since stopped using, or at least actively thinking about.

If you'd like to follow along with me, my Khan profile is here :).






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