90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
The Khan Academy And The Future Of Learning

Salman Khan is a video sensation, teaching math, physics, and other subjects. We’ll talk with a most unlikely video star.

The Khan Academy videos on YouTube are viewed by millions of students around the world. (Youtube)

The Khan Academy videos on YouTube are viewed by millions of students around the world. (Youtube)

Salman Khan sent a video to his young cousin online, to help her with her math homework. A simple explanation, quickly sketched out. Then another and another, up on YouTube.

The next thing you know, a lot of other kids were paying attention. Using those math videos. Millions of kids. Including Bill Gates’s kids.

Now, Salman Khan is an education rock star, with videos up on math and chemistry and the Napoleonic Wars. Teachers are keying in. Classrooms. And it’s all free.

This hour On Point: we talk with the rock star famous video math teacher, Salman Khan.

-Tom Ashbrook


Salman Khan, founder and executive director of the Khan Academy.

Courtney Cadwell, 7th grade math teacher at Egan Junior High School.

Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google. He is teaching a free online course “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” at Stanford University this fall.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Chronicle of Higher Education “Salman Khan, a former financial analyst, has created 1,400 educational videos and posted them to YouTube. “My single biggest goal is to try to deliver things the way I wish they were delivered to me,” he says.”

Wired “For years, teachers like Thordarson have complained about the frustrations of teaching to the “middle” of the class. They stand at the whiteboard, trying to get 25 or more students to learn the same stuff at the same pace. And, of course, it never really works: Advanced kids get bored and tune out, lagging ones get lost and tune out, and pretty soon half the class isn’t paying attention. Since the rise of personal computers in the early ’80s, educators have hoped that technology could solve this problem by offering lessons tailored to each kid. Schools have blown millions, maybe billions, of dollars on sophisticated classroom technology, but the effort has been in vain.”


Salman Khan talk at TED 2011

U.S. History Overview 3 – WWII to Vietnam

Elements and Atoms

Bill Gates talks about the Khan Academy at Aspen Ideas Festival 2010

PBS NewsHour piece on the Khan Academy and Salman Khan

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • ac

    i love this site & recommend it to everyone!!

  • Jasoturner

    This looks awesome.  I am an engineer and I am continuously seeking science-oriented books and other media to enhance my understanding of how the world works.  Great to know this guy is out there revealing how much fun and excitement can be derived from “natural philosophy”!

  • Anonymous

    After 20 years of not using calculus, I had to relearn it as part of  a new carreer path. I stumbled upon Kahn’s videos via Google. I loved his style and approach from the beginning. Thank you Kahn!!! You saved me from many hours of frustration wading through mathematical texts that weren’t connecting the dots for me.  - Mark

  • Jean

    There are two models of bringing technology to the schools of today.  One model like the Khan Academy says that teacher are probably not the best way to convey information.  It is insulting … we can do it better than all those teachers.The other says teachers are the best way to help kids learn (and we learn about being in teams in class, too)  But sometimes we need to add some homework automation that helps the teacher stay on top of their class (es) and make sure that that homework has hints and even instructional videos mixed in to make sure that those that kids that didn’t get it can get help and those that want to speed ahead can challenge themselves.That is a local start up — Ten Marks — with 10,000s of classrooms using the product last spring just a few months after the free version was launched.  There is a free version and a small charge version that links to key assessment tools used by schools. It is for math grades 2- 11.  Parents can also buy it.Jean Hammond

    • Guest

      It is actually insulting to the conversation to not understand a topic and comment anyway. Have you seen Khan’s TED video or any other where he’s speaking in public? He has no intention of replacing teachers; he wants to get rid of the drudgery portion of teaching and give teachers the opportunity to do what is most helpful for the students. If teachers are viewed as only useful for standing in front of a class and repeating the same lecture semester after semester, then I would argue that perhaps we need to rethink the role of a teacher.

      I would even go as far as to say that teachers would appreciate the opportunity to do less regurgitating facts and more helpful interaction with students in homework/projects/etc.

  • Dave in CT
  • Bari & Brindisi

    I wonder if Khan will have a piece about the Collapse of WTC #7 explained by the Laws of Physics 101; because NPR/WBUR is way too afraid to touch and discuss the subject.

    All we want is a darn new investigation, that is educational, scientific and independent.  That is all !!!!


    • Smartest guy in the room

      You would have been better off to have people think your are crazy – rather than have opened your mouth and remove all doubt!!!!!  You are truly bonkers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Peter Duveen

        Nothing crazy about wanting to reexamine an important historical event to see if the official explanation pans out. Seems more science based to me. Progress is all about challenging conventional assumptions. Calling people crazy is not an argument, by the way.

  • Genevieve

    I used these to help me with my Bio glass last year, it was great!! I will mostly likely use them again throughout college. Thanks for making these videos!!!

  • Mjbrunker

    I tell everybody I know about this service!!! This is great!! I love to show it to people and then to say that he is really interested in the French Revolution!!!! I even mentioned the service at a school board meeting yesterday. Thanks to Mr. Kahn and I as an educator am well aware of the simple, keep it simple and short!!!! Great job!!!!! Mary June Brunker Cynthiana, KY

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christa-Hillhouse/100000210347944 Christa Hillhouse

    youTube vids for parents, kids, and nerds like me! thanks! they helped me re-learn algebra so i could help me step-son. you rock!

  • Peter Duveen

    Since the segment began with square roots I thought I would add my two cents on the subject, which can be found at http://www.opednews.com/Diary/Beating-the-square-root-ou-by-Peter-Duveen-110614-683.html, entitled “Beating the square root out of a radical sign with the number one.” Online teaching seems to be the wave of the future in an age where we want to save gasoline and be more environmentally friendly. Amazing how education can explode when it becomes more economical and eco-friendly.

  • BHA in Vermont

    Tom just said Mr. Kahn is a “one man show”. I just looked at Mr. Kahn’s website. Did HE personally make ALL those videos?  WOW!

  • Sara Giannoni

    Any statistics to see the effect this is having on math test scores?

    • Hope

      I’ll let you know next year when our students are tortured by the CT Mastery Tests

  • Jeannine

    I home school my 7th grade daughter as I did her 4 older brothers.  Khan Academy is a great help to my daughter, especially when I have other duties. She actually works on it on weekends. Thanks so much! I just wish it was available for my other kids when I was struggling with some concepts.

  • Julia

    I turned to Khan Academy out of frustration with TEXTBOOKS! My son’s high school Physics text was just pathetic on explaining an important concept. Not being familiar with the subject, I was able to 1. find the topic (good user interface) 2.) help my son understand the concept so he could do the problems, all within 15 min. 

    He is not a natural science student, so this made the whole science knowledge acquisition process efficient and friendly.

    Godspeed Mr. Khan.

  • Paul

    I think this is a great way to teach and help kids but is there a dangerous (for lack of a better term) to the traditional classroom? what about kids that don’t have easy access to the internet?

    • Guest

      The trick is to take this foundation that Khan has created and think outside the box. Just because Khan’s videos are on YouTube at the moment doesn’t mean that you MUST have internet to participate in video-based lectures of this style. And even with Khan Academy there is a Download link below each video.

  • Peter Duveen

    Since someone mentioned Taylor’s polynomials, it seems to me that the general approach to the Taylor series is lacking. My question way back when was, how did anyone ever figure that one out? Well, it seems that Taylor first expanded various algebraic expressions as a series algebraically, and then realized that the coefficients are a simple expression involving the derivatives. That would make much more sense as a way of approaching Taylor series in calculus. It seems I have wasted a great deal of time reverse engineering what i have been taught. Why not employ more of an historical approach in teaching?

  • John

    Salman, this is very disruptive apporach ( in a very good way). How are the traditional institutions reacting to your approach?  I would assume they would find it terribly threatening.

  • Florence

    I am 50 yr old  female and last year returned to a community college to begin completing a degree.
    So much has changed  in Anatomy & Physiology since 1982 when I was last in school. I was so perplexed by the cellular respiration.  I did an online search and Khan Academy helped me to “get it”.  I then went to my classmates & shared where I had found help.  Mr Khan is a great teacher who makes you feel like you don’t have to be a brain surgeon  or Einstein to learn this stuff!! You helped me to dispel some ingrained beliefs that ‘I am a dummy or not capable’! Thank you. I am now pursuing a BS in Nursing.- Florence

  • Kevinmosley

    The great thing about online services such as Kahn’s is that they go over the little things that one might miss or not understand during lecture or reading. The platform is also portable ie smartphones which alows one to learn or review on the go anywhere, anytime.   

  • Tracy Jackon

    We love Kahn Academy! My son 11-year-old son has been using it all summer to keep his math skills sharp and to get ready for 6th grade. My son also has asperger’s syndrome and I really see the potential of this method for helping kids who can’t learn well in the traditional classroom.

  • Guest-22

    Mr. Khan’s lectures are so good because they are so clearly stated. So many math and science books require kids to learn a foreign language that doesn’t help with learning the concepts. “Commutative” isn’t a word anybody else uses except mathematicians. Asking 6th graders to use words like “commutative” and “distributive,” when their brains are not yet wired for abstract learning isn’t so helpful, except for kids whose parents are also versed in math and science and can help with review and homework problems. Yes, learning the vocab is ultimately important, but where Mr. Khan’s genius lies is making the subject more interesting than the verbiage, by using other terms to explain. These lectures are also a godsend for kids whose teachers never had to learn math or science in depth (wasn’t required for elementary teachers’ licensing until fairly recently), allowing them to move ahead instead of waiting until they (might) get a better-prepared teacher in a future school grade.

    • Geozel

      Isn’t the word “isosceles” even worse?

  • RiniG

    As a stay at home mother of three (ages 11,9 and 6) and a trained biomedical engineer, khan academy is what our children need to stay competitive.  Our school system has obviously not stepped up to the plate and Mr. Khan has helped to remedy this at least in some way.  Thank you!

  • Bill

    A major problem education has is that like the rest of our capitalistic system it is driven by profit – even when they find something that works the producers have to push it out of the way to sell the next round of textbooks and curriculums.

    As a veteran homeschooler, Kahn Academy is a resource I wish we had back then.

  • Sue

    Hi, I listened this a.m. with great interest and immediately found the Kahn Academy’s website.  Thank you.  Although, I have two Masters Degrees, I have never felt that my early math instruction was adequate.  I plan on going back to the beginning to redress and really learn math the way it was intended.  Thanks for the inspiration and the work Mr. Kahn has done.  I am very excited.

    Sue in MetroWest

  • Gemli

    Usually math teachers are the worst people to teach math.  Math is a knack, an ability like being able to draw, and it’s very difficult for most teachers to understand how to communicate what comes so naturally to them to students who essentially can’t draw a straight line.  Teaching math, as Mr. Kahn has discovered, involves finding a way to communicate a fundamental understanding to the non-mathematical student that must be there before learning can occur.  This has long been missing in most math education.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Fechter/100001457278019 David Fechter

    I see this as totally disruptive!
    We need more disruption.

  • Hope

    I teach 5th grade in a city. What I LOVE about the Khan Academy lessons is the kids pay attention to a video BUT it is all business – no butterflies flapping around or dopey cartoon talking-bears. PLUS my advanced students can explore what interests them. I found the academy at the end of last year and will use it extensively this year for all subjects – I have never been so excited – added bonus – it costs the school system NOTHING THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

  • Anonymous

    I’m eager to explore this to fill in gaps in my education, refresh skills that I haven’t used in years, and learn new things.  I hate the classroom experience (or maybe I’m still just tired from law school) and love the no frills and self-paced approach to conveying information. 

  • WBC

    How far do you plan on taking this?  One of the things that we need to do is reduce the cost of a college education and post graduate education.  A daughter of a cousin of mine is going to be over $250,000 in debt when she gets out of medical school.  Is there a way to replace several years of a college education by taking a series of these lectures followed by a series of very inexpensive exams to prove that you have mastered the material?

    • Happybeachbum

      I don’t know about other locations, but in Florida a high school student can take advanced courses and graduate high school with a minimum of two years of college credits plus an associates degree. A number of my friends kids have graduated with enough college credits for a pre-med degree. And, at least in our local college, the courses are tuition free to a high school student. This saves them undergrad school costs plus they start med school four years younger.

      The Khan Academy should make this a lot easier for these kids as well as giving them a better education. It will be even more valuable for those students without the motivation or opertunitiy to do this.

      I read somewhere that a grant has been made to Khan to develop medical courses. I do not know where this stands. I do agree with you that we need to make school at all levels less expensive. When I went to school we had one principle with a secretary for a 1000 student school. We had 30 or 40 students in a class (k-12) and 300   to 500 in college and the teachers had no problems with dicipline. The school system like the health care system is broken and needs to be fixed. If we fix the school system, then people llike your cousin will not have to charge outlandish fees for medical service and our health care costs will also go down.

  • Echaparrob

    they key to being a great teacher is to identify each child’s on way to learn.
    Some children are mentally geared towards arts, humanities etc. but not towards abstract courses like sciences. These are the children I think with the greatest need of having a different way to teach to them math and scientific classes.
     I think this system is one of the best learning processes to learn abstract courses.

  • Monica

    Thank you, Tom, for one of the most hopeful programs of the past few months! After listening today, I can imagine a world where everyone can be free to learn as much as they would like, and with financial and geographical, political and religious barriers, reduced to be as small as possible. Girls who can’t step outside their home or village can learn–if they have access to a computer. Their parents can learn. Adults who never got it together as kids can learn. Adults who are incarcerated can learn. Kids in crappy home-school or public school or parochial school environments can learn what their limited teachers cannot fully teach. The only drawback I see is access to a computer–many homes still lack this. In the US we have public libraries, but computer use is taken up by adults looking for jobs, in 20-30 minute time slots. Computer costs and network subscription fees are still beyond the reach of many families worldwide.

    But, all in all, free(er) global education and information will engage the brainpower of millions of people who have not yet had a way to get the training they need to be able to contribute their ideas to solving their local and regional problems. Thanks again for a program that will help more people to learn about the world in so many ways. Wonderful!!!

  • J. E. Steirman

    This sounds great for people that self-disciplined to improve themselves. Glad Bill’s billions are making it go. Why is the school asking for donations?

  • Inspired by Khan

    The Khan Academy is one of the most important developments in education.  As we grapple with the competing goals of deficit reduction and American competitiveness, technological innovations in education need to be embraced.  Furthermore, this is not an American phenomenon.  Students across the globe have caught on and as Khan translates his lectures (which is being done) it will continue to spread.  We need to weave this style of teaching into our education system… this is a paradigm shift!  Tom, thank you for raising the awareness.  Sal, keep driving the revolution.

  • OldWine,NewBottles,BadPedagogy

    The Wrath Against Khan: Why Some Educators Are Questioning Khan Academy:


  • Nog

    I am 28 years old. I never went to college after getting my GED at 16. With that much of a gap in my own education, my confidence about going to college was zero. Then I started up on Khan Academy about six months ago. I am now enrolled at the community college here in my home town. Khan Academy not only allowed me to brush up on my math skills but also gave me the thought, “I really can do this!”

  • Brian Sit

    As a college Freshmen in Organic Chemistry, I cannot remember how many times Kahn has helped. Our lecture with a hundred so students is huge, and the lessons aren’t very clear from my professor but the PharmD students have all already learned to ignore the professor and read the book during lectures and watch Kahn for the information.
    Coincidentally my Physics professor is also a Dr. Kahn and he is AWESOME. 

  • Janeponcia

    Speaking as a mathmatical moron, this system sounds wonderful.  Are there any videos suitable for a 9 year old ADDHD boy.  Or for that matter suitable for his 79 year old grandmother?


  • Itha

    I love this man’s work and the way he constructed a total system.  He applied systems thinking and considered the systemic impact. The real innovation sits in the way he created a incredibly powerful back-end and rich database and uses the intelligence generated by the millions of pieces of information.
    Our challenge in SA – just get all children and teachers connected and in front of a PC and our maths and science education will grow in leaps and bounds. 

  • Mark S.

    I dunno…  I’ve been mad at Khan ever since he hijacked the U.S.S. Reliant, fired on the U.S.S. Enterprise, marooned Captain Kirk on Regula One and stole the Genesis device…  Wait.  What’s that?  Oh…  Uhh, different Khan?  Sorry.  Never mind…

    • Fred Loeper

      I knew someone would bring this up. Get a life!!

      • Casey Reinhardt02

        a star trek reference is never out of place.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

    What Salman Khan posts on YouTube exemplifies the type of direct instruction that teachers used to do on the blackboard, and it flies in the face of the pseudo-educational rubbish that pseudo-educators have been promoting for decades. For more than 20 years, one of the pet slogans of pseudo-educators has been: “A teacher should be a guide at your side, not a sage on the stage.”

    • pppetros

      It’s not a direct instruction, because the students can pause, rewind etc the videos. Something I know I can skip it, something i didn’t get I can go back and watch it again.

      So the new form of teaching is by having the students to watch the next lesson at home at their own pace. The next day, in the class, the guide-teacher will help them to practice and elaborate on more advaced excercises.

      Linear Direct Instruction is boring and one should use it sparingly.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

        The fact that you can pause and rewind the videos does not negate the fact that they exemplifly direct instruction.

    • Rod Auric

      That’s funny, I use that phrase to illustrate how Khan Academy can be used in a classroom … with a real live present teacher guiding students at their side after they watch and practice the Khan Academy lessons either in class or before they arrive.  

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

        In other words, Salman Khan would be doing the direct instruction for the teacher.

  • Drfoxcourt

    This is the way to assure no child is left behind, not NCLB standardized testing. Arne Duncan, Please empower every school to connect to Kahn Academy!

  • Fred Loeper

    What we are actually seeing, and have been for some time now, are the
    opening salvos that will make the regular classroom teacher a dinosaur. I do not fear this as I am at the end of my career. I wonder how the Lord High Priests and Priestesses of the Holy Order of Education (otherwise known as HOE) will react to this. If this new approach to education finally brings down the U.S. Dept of Education, then I am all for it. But the Arne Duncans (and his army of sycophants) of the world will not go quietly into that gentle night.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brennan-Moriarty/100000655771831 Brennan Moriarty

    This could bring salvation to “continuation hi schools” where academics are thuroughly denied/unavailable.
    What would be the best format is; prepackaged and custom personal automatic production of set-lists, say you enter your d.o.b./”horoscope” and your path is not only revealed but explained through computer-divinated science “selections”. Then if secure tests can be supplied, students with proven intelligence can achieve!!! glory, and study at home [TV... death of soap operas, sit coms: but not twisted cartoons... to cleans your palet, heh?]

  • http://twitter.com/murmur55 murmur55

    More resources:

    Tuition-Free Online Degree, Tution Free Online Degrees (minor fees only)  http://bit.ly/nVS6Q7

    Yale Law School | Yale ISP and University of the People Partner for Digital Education Research http://bit.ly/q9ZB1A

    Yale Law School | Podcasts http://bit.ly/nGvVYC

    Online Video Lectures and Course Materials — Open Yale Courses http://bit.ly/mWru3D

  • http://twitter.com/Jorfer88 Jorge Fernandez


  • http://twitter.com/Jorfer88 Jorge Fernandez

    As a science teacher and knowing how poorly the school system implements things, I imagine a distopian society resembling that of the 1984 Apple superbowl commercial where teachers are laid off, students are forced to watch Khan Academy, and creativity in the learning process is removed and replaced with a formula. Students, especially those with severe behavioral problems, cannot just learn from a textbook or video. This is probably what concerns me most about the rise of Khan.

  • http://www.reversephonelookuped.com/ reverse phone lookup

    Thanks for the great videos.

  • http://www.reversephonelookupsearch.com/ phone number lookup

    Your blog was tweeted by a friend yesterday. Decided I’d take a look. Best decision ever.

  • http://www.cellphonelookuped.com/ cell phone directory

    Hello my loved one! I wish to say that this article is amazing, nice written and come with almost all significant infos. I’d like to see extra posts like this .

  • http://reversecellphonelookup.me/ reverse cell phone lookup

    Browsed the whole written piece. You have some really helpful details here. thank you. “Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.” by Mao Tse Tung..

  • http://www.prlog.org/11261550-phone-number-lookup-catch-cheater-quickly.html phone number lookup

    An impressive share, I given this onto a colleague who had previously been conducting a small analysis with this. And that he in truth bought me breakfast due to that the fact I ran across it for him.. smile. So ok, i’ll reword that Thnx with the treat! Conversely yeah Thnkx for spending enough time go over this, I’m strongly about this and love reading read more about this topic. If at all probable, because you become expertise, do you mind updating your blog with a ton more details It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this writing!

  • http://www.ourmidland.com/voices/community/article_3abc5302-931f-11e1-ac26-8f9c10b62f96.html cell phone lookup

    woh I am  thankful to obtain this website through google.

  • Jorfer88

    As a science teacher and knowing how poorly the school system implements
    things, I imagine a distopian society resembling that of the 1984 Apple
    superbowl commercial where teachers are laid off, students are forced
    to watch Khan Academy, and creativity in the learning process is removed
    and replaced with a formula. Students, especially those with severe
    behavioral problems, cannot just learn from a textbook or video. This is
    probably what concerns me most about the rise of Khan. 

Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 20, 2014
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Your (Weird? Wonderful? Wacky?) Roommate Stories
Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014

We asked, and you delivered: some of the best roommate stories from across our many listener input channels.

More »
1 Comment
Our Week In The Web (August 15, 2014)
Friday, Aug 15, 2014

On Pinterest, Thomas the Tank Engine and surprising population trends from around the country. Also, words on why we respond to your words, tweets and Facebook posts.

More »
Nickel Creek Plays Three Songs LIVE For On Point
Wednesday, Aug 13, 2014

Nickel Creek shares three live (well, mostly) tracks from their interview with On Point Radio.

More »