I recently took the ISEE, the Independent School Entrance Exam, which involved many hours of studying. The ISEE is a two-and-a-half long hour test that tested me on my verbal skills, reading comprehension skills, quantitative reading skills, and mathematics achievement skills. I was fine on my English skills, but I needed to brush up on math concepts from the past few years. I still had all of my schoolwork, and track, as well as hours of homework each night, so we had to find a source that would be easily accessible for me. After many days of trying to figure out the best solution, I remembered my math teacher had told me about this website called Khan Academy. I went and searched it up and I found a treasure trove of learning, videos, information, and my help.
Salman Khan is the creator of the website and is the only person who has made and posted all 2,700 current videos! He is a teacher who had a student sick one day, and the student asked him if he could post the lesson on YouTube. Salman went ahead and told the lesson to a camera and posted it on YouTube that night. That same student came in the next day and understood the topic more than anyone. Salman was puzzled by this, then the kid said to Salman, "I learned much faster from the YouTube version of you." Salman asked why, and the student replied, "Because I could pause you, rewind you, or fast-forward you."
The reason why I loved what this student said is that whenever any student asks a teacher to repeat something more than once, they get agitated. The ability to stop, rewind, or fast-forward really makes a difference in learning. Salman continued this quest still to this moment, and he has made videos on math, geography, history, trigonometry, physics, the recent SOPA bill, and even banking!
Now what does this have to do with me doing well on the ISEE? Khanacademy.org did not need to meet me, or greet me, or even visit me. Salman Khan's math lectures all came with practices that I could skip if I understood the lesson, or rewatch the lesson to understand it better.
Let me back up for a moment. When I said there were practices, you do not get to them by going to the video then going to the lesson, there is a whole tree of practices that begin at the most basic and gradually moves down to the more difficult practices. The best part of practicing was not the fact that I learned, but I got points and badges for learning.
I have been formulating this idea -- which may become a later blog post -- that if you make difficult things in life into games, people will gladly do them. Work would be a perfect example. While people earn raises, employee of the month, and the corner office, they still do not have fun. While I like math, often it seems like an endless stream of problems, with no end or goal in sight. With the addition of points and prizes, I was excited to go home and study each night.
In the end, Khan Academy helped me greatly in terms of my math skills. I was able to feel like the math was not any harder, and I could understand the topic better, learn faster, and make my overall skills stronger. I would strongly suggest that everyone who is studying for the ISEE or SSAT for next year get a tutor and a Khan Academy account. All of Salman Khan's videos are free, as well as the account, which means that there is no reason to not create an account.