by Barry Gelston, M.Ed.

Today I address the value of Khan Academy and where I see its use in the homeschool world. I like Khan Academy. I think that it is a valuable and important resource for learning math on the internet, but the question remains, how do you use it in your life?

Math education is a multi-layered process that starts with an overall plan for teaching math. For us the framework of that plan is now the Common Core Standards for Math which I am comfortable with. The Common Core Standards is the latest step in a 40 year evolving process by very sincere and educated people to improve math education. Next, teachers/ parents need to understand the broad concepts being taught in the standards and to have a mastery of those concepts. The teacher needs to be able to keep an eye on the bigger picture while introducing the building blocks of math until the bell goes off in the child’s head in terms of the bigger concept, how to perform procedures, and to use the concepts and procedures to solve complex, real life problems.

Furthermore, as teachers we need to be able to individualize to the needs of each child knowing their learning styles as the gateway to use their entire brain. It is a big challenge. The great thing about homeschooling is that we get to know our child’s learning styles intimately and to teach or provide those resources that individualize to our child’s needs. And, the big concepts of elementary math are very learnable even for the most math phobic parents.

That being said, I see Khan Academy as a great tutoring resource to provide children a visual and auditory way to learn how to perform math procedures. I like that they have virtual manipulatives to try out math knowledge and a video to learn how-tos. However, I don’t always like each video. That is where I see the end of the value of Khan Academy. Khan Academy is not your teacher. It does not customize to the needs of your child. It does not provide a broad picture. But, if you want your child to learn from a different resource or to have reinforcement on how to perform a procedure, Khan Academy is great.

That is how I use Khan Academy. So, use the Khan Academy, but don’t use it as a substitute for a math teacher. Think of Khan Academy as a pretty good tutor. Preview each lesson before you give it to your child and make sure that it fits your program and your child’s particular learning style. B.G.