Friday, July 3, 2015

A Review of Khan Academy: Math

Alright. As we all know, I've been off my game recently. As a result, many things slid, and the homeschool year ended abruptly on my surgery date. I'd spent a good amount of time looking for something for Mad Natter to do to keep his math from atrophying over the summer, and it seemed like The Time to start it up, especially since I had a recommendation from our next door neighbor as well.

First thing, you create your own account, which is nice - particularly if you want to learn new things. Then you create an account for your child.  You get a card on your parent checklist, which lets you monitor your child's progress (or add additional children) and see what, precisely, they've been looking at on the site.

The "Activity Summary" lets you look in detail at what's been going on - how long your child has been on the site, all the skills they've learned (leveled up in), all the videos they've watched, and all the progress badges they've earned.  You can choose from time frames of the last day, the last seven days, or the last thirty days. You also get a look at how far the child is in their current "mission" - what Khan Academy calls their courses.

You can set what your child is working on, and then... let them to it.  When they log in, they have the option to resume any mission they haven't completed - things like "Elementary Math" and "Fractions" as well as "Arithmetic" and "Multiplication and Division."  Once they've chosen what to work on, Khan Academy offers them choices. Would they like to complete a Mastery Challenge?  Would they like to practice some other skills first?

In the Mastery Challenge, your child has the ability to level up skills. Beginning at "Needs Practice" they move through "Level 1" and "Level 2" to finally arrive at "Mastered."  Each question they answer correctly in a Mastery Challenge will move them up a level, and each question answered incorrectly will move them down a level.  If your child has never used Khan Academy before, the site automatically dumps them to a Mastery Challenge. The child continues through Mastery Challenges until they reach items they do not know, or answer incorrectly, at which point the site knows roughly where to place them, and off they go.

In addition, there are lessons available on the site. If your child gets stuck and doesn't know something, they can watch the lesson on the type of question they've gotten stuck on. Once the lesson is completed, the child is able to return to the question and try again.  There is also a hint feature that will give the child clues on how to solve the problems... but those hints are limited. Your child can continue to watch lessons, or they can continue with mastery challenges or practice problems.

Now, if your child is one that needs to write down their work, they don't keep it all in their head? Khan Academy has that covered, too.  There is a built-in scratchpad with most questions, allowing the child to use the mouse (in our house, I mouse, Mad Natter talks) to write down their work and keep track. The scratchpad has multiple different colors of "ink," allowing for differentiation when needed.

Here's another one.  Mad Natter, as I've said before, abhors review.  Anything that even remotely approaches "review" to him, and he's screaming the house down about how he already knows this, OMG, why am I *torturing* him?!? Things like this are why I have "Doubles Addition" charts and "Multiplication Tables!" pages hanging all over my house. He memorizes through use, which is probably the better way to do it anyway. Mad Natter... still doesn't love math, which is kind of surprising since he's really rather good at it. But, he does do the work. He's not enamored of it, but he doesn't hate it.  And since Khan Academy's Math is really the only schoolwork we're doing, it seems that's "the thing" to grouse about.

All in all, Mad Natter has made incredible strides in using Khan Academy. I'm uncertain how much is due to the format, how much is due to the single task at a time nature, and how much is due to being able to keep him focused on the task better, but he's gone from mid-second grade to mid fourth grade inside of a month. And he's still going. I'm calling it a resounding success... even if it is threatening to give me a heart attack.

This blog post is also available via Gifted Homeschoolers' Forum's Resource Reviews. Please click on through and see what else has been reviewed from a Gifted Homeschooling perspective!