I tried the Khan Academy

As an experiment, I started out the beginning of this year and tried flipping my classroom, but with a slight twist: I have extra instructional time, so students were to watch the instructional videos (from the Khan Academy and IBVodcasting.com) during classroom time. We spent about 1/3 of classtime using the Khan Academy videos and exercises, about 1/3 doing problem solving activities (like what is available on www.mathpickle.com and projecteuler.net), and the rest of the time attempting to put the knowledge we were learning into a useful context for the students. While students were involved in these activities, I spent my time circulating the classroom and providing individual and small group support and instruction.

After a month I ended my experiment and am currently in a state of transition while I explore other possible ways of running my classroom. Here are some of the reasons I ended it.

  • Some students chose, despite repeated requests from me, to only watch videos and do exercises that were really easy for them, instead of advancing their knowledge. One student said "she liked the easy videos because it was easy to get points." Another student said she chose the easy exercises because "she was worried about getting problems wrong." These students were more focused on getting easy points and avoiding challenges than learning.
  • Some of my students ignored the point system of the Khan Academy and focused on learning, but found that the information from the Khan Academy wasn’t challenging enough. When given practice questions from the course content, they found that the Khan Academy style questions didn’t adequately prepare them. This was partially addressed for these students by switching to the IBVodcasting.com videos, since they are more difficult.
  • A few students were able to "master" the content in the Khan Academy exercises after watching a few of the videos, but were unable to transfer what they had learned to any other context, and when queried in more depth, lacked basic understand of what they were learning. For example, they could solve problems like log10 + log2 = log20, but had no idea how to find the value of log20 in terms of p and q when log10 = p and log2 = q.

I’m hoping to implement the RME model and looking for resources that will help support the course curriculum I’m required to cover in the International Baccalaureate program. If I can’t find resources to support this, I’m switching back to my style where I spend some time with students doing experiments in math, some time working on practice problems, and some time with me explaining mathematical concepts. I’m definitely not using the Khan Academy videos again (but I will probably use the IBVodcasting.com videos as additional support for students).


See this Slideshare presentation for a description of what the RME model looks like.






  • David,

    I thank you for your action research approach to finding best practices in teaching. It is a true inspiration to us all who value the advancement to teaching and learning. You have provided an excellent model of exactly what teachers should be doing — trying new approaches and reflecting on the outcome.
    Cheers and thank!

  • Thanks for the post. I tried the exact same thing with my grade 8s, with similar results. They found the videos too boring (maybe too long?) and the problem sets are good practice, but I pity the child who needs a lot of extra practice as Khan just keeps giving problems until they get a ‘streak’. Some ended up doing 40+ problems per set!They were very diligent about it all but I think I will try something different for the next unit.

  • Hi David,

    Love reading your blog. Also agree with the fact that Khan academy is better for prepping for test questions as opposed to inspiring students or communicating deep ideas. I recently started a project which is a long form series on important problems which have existed through time. However, I have been posting short, cinematic (no whiteboards, no boring drawings!) 1-3 minute videos from the long episode which explain important concepts such as possibility space, randomness, prime factorization…etc

    I’m really hoping to get some feedback from an inspired teacher such as yourself who could test run a video for a class in order to inspire debate or exploration into a lesson. I see video as a way to “open a door” to a students mind. If they can, for example, understand probability using dimensions it might change their thought process forever. It happened to me!

    Would love to hear from you. You can check out some recent videos. I’m on youtube under http://www.youtube.com/artoftheproblem

    Keep up the great work,


  • David Wees wrote:

    I really, really like your videos Brit. Thank you. I’m going to see how I can use them in my classroom.

  • Hey David-
    I think this is a really interesting post because it is one of the first that I have seen that actually tries Khan Academy before being pro or against its use. I would like to argue, though, that this is also a fantastic argument against blind implementation of someone else’s “stuff” and a non-example of how to run a flipped classroom.

    Learners want to see their teacher, not hear someone else’s voice. I think if you had used videos made personally, you would have had a different result. This is also a great example against using videos for straight content delivery. They should be supplemental to the coursework and should NOT be awarded points.

    The flipped classroom is NOT synonymous with Khan Academy and I think this is a great piece for that argument. Real learning comes from relationships with learners and opportunities for continued growth and application of material. Video in a flipped classroom, whoever produces it, should not be the central tenet to its success.

    Thanks for posting,

  • Good point, Brian. But I wonder how many teachers have the time and ability to make quality educational videos?

  • I agree with Brian. I would necessarily dismiss the idea of the flipped instruction based on the these videos. Every good “flipper” that I know is constantly evaluating and revising their methods to meet the needs of their class. Also consider that there are different flipped models. If you haven’t seen it already, check out flipteaching.com and click on “models”. There is so much more to flipped instruction than just watching and/or making videos. So much so that you can do it without using videos at all.

  • It should have read, “I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss….”

  • David Wees wrote:

    Hi Troy,

    I haven’t abandoned "flip" teaching yet. I’m just looking at alternatives, but I’ve definitely abandoned the Khan Academy.


  • David,
    I agree wholeheartedly. I think Khan Academy has made incredible strides in opening access to all but it is a far cry from replacing teachers or best practices.

    I documented my use of ALEKS here: http://www.brokenairplane.com/2011/03/aleks-math-software-for-differentiated.html and here http://www.brokenairplane.com/2011/05/aleks-math-qualitative-and-quantitative.html

    Unlike Khan, ALEKS learns from how students are doing and adjusts so it is never too difficult that they shut down and never too easy that they coast.

    That being said, there was still the ALEKS: Black Hole as we referred to it where a student could still game the system. This was reduced if not eliminated through data tracking made possible through the reports (which are also available in Khan) to ensure progress was made.

    Most importantly, I met with each student every two weeks to see how they were progressing as well as observing them as they would work in class. Sometimes, they would say, “It’s too hard” and I would remind them that’s why I am here to support them.

    Without a software like that, I was unable to differentiate my instruction to the degree which I did. If it is used well, these technologies allow us to be the teacher/mentor we want to be, but they are not the “classroom in a box” that some make them out to be.

  • I’ve been experimenting with flipped classrooms and Khan academy video approaches too but have mixed it slightly differently. I split my class into small groups and then asked them to come up with their own “Khan Academy” slide using the IW we have at school and screencast-o-matic.

    We did this as a revision piece at the end of a topic and then rated each other’s pieces: how well did it explain the process …

    This is from some 10 year olds on number machines

    It’s slow, needs some tech input but really engaged the kids and when we introduced algebra they immediately made the link to number machines.

    Also, for each topic, I could set various revision bites I needed them to explain, so that I could stretch them.

  • David,

    I appreciated reading how you implemented your idea of a “flipped classroom,” your students’ reactions to the Khan videos, and why you decided to use a different model in the future. You are a role model for all teachers in your honest sharing and reporting.

    I also enjoyed reading the many comments left by fellow educators. There are so many intelligent, dedicated, and creative teachers out there who are still striving to increase their effectiveness in meeting the needs of their students!


    Scotti Glasgow

  • Thanks for the informative post. It is always helpful to hear first-hand accounts of teachers testing out digital videos like the ones at Khan Academy in the classroom. It sounds like you had a couple of issues when you tried implementation: 1)The content didn’t adequately cater towards the learning spectrum of your students and 2)students had difficulty with the assessment component.

    Have you tried recording your own digital lessons and incorporating assessment tools with it? That way the content would be developed by the person that knows the students best: you. One of my colleagues recorded his own digital lesson using the interface of eduCanon (see http://www.eduCanon.com/) and tried it out in his classroom. eduCanon is a platform where a teacher can upload their own videos (made with Camtasia or other software) and time questions for the students to respond to as the video progresses. The student’s quiz scores are stored in a database so it is easy to see each student’s performance.

  • I think, that, although, KA is great resource, but it still lacks practice. Problems are quite simple and students concentrate on earning badges, instead of learning concepts more deeply.
    As a result, non-standard or a bit harder problems frustrate students.
    As for me forum is better, because it is human-driven.
    Another solution would be to diversify problems form easiest to toughest.
    When I write math notes, I actually, try to give exercises from easiest to hardest.
  • Qub Pseudon wrote:

    Maybe stop looking for a one size fits all and use Khan as well as any and ALL resources as opposed to writing KA off completely.

  • […] Video itself will not help kids achieve more in your class. The flipped classroom is about making connections with learners and differentiating your instruction. If videos are a part of that multi-faceted plan, great. If they are not, still great. The flipped class is an ideology, not a methodology. […]

  • […] some students the exercises are too easy. Sometimes this is because kids select easier problems for themselves, sometimes this is because students already know a bunch of mathematics and do not need this […]

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