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Multiplication smackdown: Sal Khan vs Vi Hart—who’s got the ‘insight’?

June 10, 2011
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UPDATE: Google Trends graphic corrected.

One of the things Salman Khan is really fond of saying he tries to show viewers the “bigger picture.” I’ve now watched quite a few of his videos, and I’m having a hard time believing he sees the bigger picture himself.

I don’t mean to continually bash Khan here, but I am concerned at the amount of praise he gets that tout his lectures as “excellent” because they don’t just explain the rote procedure, but really get at the “why” and deeper understanding. I just don’t see this. To me, Khan’s lectures are nothing but procedure, definitions, and formulae, with no regard for student misconceptions or how students learn. I have seen excellent video lectures—my iphone is filled with great lectures I’ve downloaded from iTunesU of Walter Lewin and others, I just haven’t seen any from Khan Academy. And while it may be that Khan is a renaissance man who can learn enough about everything from the french revolution to double replacement reactions to be able to put together 2000 videos explaining these topics, I think there’s no way he can develop and communicate a deep understanding of the “big picture” on as many topics.

Could it be that the larger public and media don’t really know what real insight and deeper understanding look like outside their own fields? Witness historian David Clemmons criticizing Khan Academy’s History videos, but saying they are a “helpful tutor for math and science.”

Let’s take a look. I want to start with something simple. 2 column multiplication. First, Sal’s take:

I defy you to tell me that there is anything here beyond simply talking through how to follow the standard mechanistic process of multiplying two digit numbers.

If you want to see what insight looks like, watch this:

As usual, Vi delivers a gigantic heaping of insight into what multiplication is, why these algorithms work, along with a handful of sarcasm and one of the most important critiques of math education and obsession with notation I’ve seen in the past month or so.

So here’s the problem with math education (and education in general) in one simple graph.

In the blue corner, you’ve got Khan Academy, with its vast trove of videos, designed to help you master the algorithm, learn the notation, answer the question, and ace the test. For most of the media, this is all math education is, so it’s no wonder that the guy who figured out how to put all this on the internet is heralded as a genius.

But in the red corner, you’ve got Vi Hart, who wants to tell you about insight, symmetry, and a love of mathematics, not because it’s going to be on some test, but because is beautiful, and it can change the way you see the world. And right now, she’s not even on the chart!. But as a teacher and a parent of a 7 month old, I’m betting all my money on Vi.

Sure, I understand that no one is going to show Vi’s video to the 3rd grader learning 2 column multiplication for the first time—that’s fine. But if we don’t work to bring Vi’s insight into how we develop curriculum, starting at the very youngest grades, I’m afraid that we will be sadly disappointed when this third grader grows up, attends Khan University, and once released to the working world and asked to do something creative or innovative, starts looking for an 8 minute video explaining the algorithm for creativity.

31 Comments leave one →
  1. octobermax permalink
    June 10, 2011 4:45 pm

    Sal certainly does a lot more explaining why the standard multiplication algorithm works than I’ve seen in a lot of middle- and elementary-school classrooms recently. It seems unfair to say that he’s not making any effort to help his students make sense of algorithms. On the other hand I noticed a lot of moments where he had to wave his hand at meaning and encourage memorization, or where he suggested that making sense might not be worth the effort compared to memorizing. That seemed troublesome. But it didn’t make me think he was a bad guy or a bad teacher, just that work like Vi is doing is incredibly hard and takes a lot of thought.

    How do you make sense of the standard algorithm in a way that relates it to what learners might already know? How do you connect it to meaning and sense-making? How do you balance the need for practice and drill to get fluent with the need to connect back to something that makes sense?

    To me, the big difference between the videos seemed to be the problem-solving and understanding routines of the two filmmakers. Sal (somewhat apologetically and haphazardly) used a single “change the representation” routine, rewriting 36 * 23 as 30 + 6 * 20 + 3 (some hand-waving had to occur as to why this might be reasonable). Vi related, pretty systematically, 2 or 3 representations. She also used a “simpler problem” strategy pretty explicitly to help her count dots on two different occasions, as well as to solve 7*6. She also had a routine to check for sense making which was decidedly absent in Sal’s video. She had a basic understanding of what multiplication means (the array model, in this case) and used that as a central concept to check her methods and the standard procedure against.

    I think it’s the problem-solving strategies and sense-making routines that will eventually come to be the answer to the question of “how do you teach kids the big picture, connections, and understanding really, really well? By teaching them to be the kind of thinker Vi and Sal *both* are, by being explicit in teaching them those thinking routines. That way, they’ll be able to learn from either video because they’ll be doing estimation, connecting multiple representations, solving with a simpler problem, etc. as they watch. They’ll be folks who can learn from Sal’s “why this works” portion, not the folks who have to skip that part.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching mathematical thinking strategies (http://mathforum.org/blogs/max/problem-solving-strategies-and-the-common-core-practice-standards/) and am excited by the efforts to figure out how the Common Core Process Standards develop and can be taught, NCTM’s focus on reasoning and sense-making, etc. It seems like there’s a ton of work to be done and it will only be done if we keep noticing it and wondering how to get better at it whenever we see it.

    Max

    • June 10, 2011 7:53 pm

      Max,
      Here’s my bigger point—Sal thinks he’s showing the deeper insights in his lectures, but he doesn’t even see those insights. How could he possibly? The limited number of deeper insights I’ve acquired in my field (physics) did not come from simply reading a book, or taking a class, but lots and lots of hard work, and teaching the material to students, where most often, their response would be “I’m confused” and by working together we’d both gain deeper understanding.

      Sal is probably far smarter than I am, but I just don’t think making video tutorials and posting them out on the internet, where most of the feedback is “this is great” can really lead to him reaching deep understanding about mathematics, much less communicate that understanding to others, and I see no evidence of either these in the physics and math videos I’ve watched. The prospect that he’s able to somehow figure out the big ideas from all the disciplines he’s posted on KA is preposterous. He may be a renaissance man, jack of all trades, but he’s also, from what I can tell, a master of none. And I don’t mean that to sound as harsh as it did—I consider myself to be a master only of a tiny slice of physics. The difference is I don’t tell people I’ve got a video that has figured out the big picture for the history of WWII or RNA transcription.

      This gets to an even bigger point I’d like to explore in a future post of my learning and confusion series. Sal’s post’s feel like learning—everything is super clear and easy to understand. And while I do think you are learning something from watching them, you aren’t getting to deep understanding. The first sign you are getting to deep understanding is confusion, which is a feeling many people get when they start to see Vi’s stuff.

      • Bee Smith permalink
        April 14, 2012 9:15 pm

        I appreciate your perspective as a physicist. Surely such studies, indeed, go deep. However, as a neural researcher, the need to repeat information on simpler levels remains crucial for the entirety of any students learning and remembering. That “deep understanding” of which you address does not hold a prayer if the basics themselves do not, yet, hold. Even Einstein struggled repeatedly in order to gain entrance to earning his higher degrees. Prior to being accepted to graduate school, his work as a patent officer required repeated reviews over stacks of theories. This exercised one of the most difficult disciplines required in science to this day – developing the language of scientific writing and reading. Those repetitious steps of Einstein’s, regardless how small, were pathways to find his own voice for what eventually turned the world on its heels. This what Khan academy does for the students whose sensory input delays during the listening of academic verbiage. Patience may not be considered worthy of a degree in standardized education but it is certainly a virtue inside the Khan Academy that supports the students earnestness who work hard towards the earning of their degrees.

  2. June 10, 2011 5:46 pm

    Max-

    This is not intended to be passive aggresive and I hope it doesn’t come off as such, but could you please cite (links to specific videos and times) where you seen khan explaining why the multiplication algorithm works? Or any algorithm for that matter. I’m just not seeing it.

    Avery

  3. June 10, 2011 5:53 pm

    Honestly, both videos worry me a little, but let me talk about Vi’s.

    She’s going through some of the same concepts I spent an entirely class period on in my Math for Elementary Educators class in 3 minutes. For someone who already has a good handle on what is going on, it is eye-opening. For someone who is confused, it is just a little too fast. (I realize it isn’t meant as a tutorial, but you seem to be implying as such.)

    I guess I’d like to see the insight of Vi combined with the timing of Khan.

    • June 10, 2011 7:57 pm

      Jason,
      If Vi wanted to be a math teacher and her goal were really to explain multiplication using videos, I think I could easily tell her to slow down in order to make her work more comprehensible. But that’s not her shtick. With Khan, I don’t think there’s any way I could simply say—explain this stuff more deeply, and he’d have any idea what I was talking about. That’s my problem. But my biggest concern isn’t really with Sal—let him make his videos. It’s with the rest of the world that looks at them and thinks “looks like great math education to me.”

  4. June 10, 2011 6:13 pm

    John,
    Thanks for this comparison. I definitely will be using it with the preservice teachers that I work with. It is such a stark contrast between telling someone else what to do (Sal’s lecture) and sharing a think-aloud (Vi’s demonstration).
    Dave

  5. June 10, 2011 6:28 pm

    John,

    The students at Sterling Home School Academy LUV LUV LUV both Sal & Vi — and we think there is a place for both when learning mathematics. We also LUV the Virtual Math Club and many other math resources & approaches, including books (purchased or from the library) that cover the same kind of sexy math theory and patterns that Vi covers in her videos. Vi is an absolute delight.

    My older son has recently been begging to play in Khan Academy — he is teaching himself basic Trig. By “play” I mean that Trig is outside of his formal studies for this year and he will ask if he can practice Trig in his spare time. He will later take a formal class on the subject… he is just curious and the videos are there & understandable to him. We used ALEKS to document that he has acquired pre-algebra math skills this year…. and yes… that application mostly focuses on formula and drill but my son likes it anyway… he says solving the problems is enjoyable the same way a puzzle is enjoyable. He also understands that when basic skills are second nature, he will be able to focus more on framing a problem when faced with the next creative problem solving situation.

    When we can, we attended math workshops where the emphasis is on creative problem solving. We are signed up for two such workshops this summer — just for fun — and would attend more but the Gparents lake is calling us to come splash around.

    If we could, we would join your class or dy/dan because you are both clearly excellent teachers — but we can’t so we get at creative problem solving through workshops or in whatever way we can find.

    To my mind, there is no need to pit Vi and Sal against each other. At SHSA we think both add to the rich resources needed to love and master maths. Vi fires our imagination and Khan soothes our mind. We aim for a balance of the two…. comfort with basic skills and pondering about the wonders of math.

    I’d be very surprised if Khan would have his kids only learn using his videos. I’d be very surprised if his kids let him without resistance.

    I think that the anti-Sal movement is right to make the point that his videos are not a complete or fully rounded resource BUT I think the anti-Sal voices are not acknowledging that there is value to his videos as a free resource that can be used by those who are strapped for cash but who need to brush up or move forward or re-learn certain basics.

    And, I think Sal’s overall goal, to provide access to free education, is noble — even if his system is not perfectly well rounded — there is still a lot there of use — for free. The world is brimming with people who do not have the spare change for a tutor or even to attend college. I think that contributing resources so people can, even partially, educate themselves is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. Maybe $400 buck for a tutor or per course is not of value to some but for those who struggle to get by each day — well — a tool like this is a liberating force. And, the fact that Khan has a rather large body of students I think is a testament to the need for this kind of resource and the value of it. Those of us who use the tool are not some freaky Khan cult — we are self directed learners who are strapped for cash & appreciate the gift.

    I so wish the anti-Sal folks would spend their time collaborating with Sal. Sure, identify weaknesses but then instead of poking blog fingers in his eye — create great content to supplement. Or, if not in the mood to collaborate and looking for personal recognition, then make your own educational web site accessible to large numbers of people. I mean it is fine if your goal is to focus on the charges under you nose at your school & to collaborate with other physics teachers to advance teaching strategies — that is a noble goal too and will in its time maybe have broader impact in the field of education. But our world and humans are in distress and struggling. All I see in Sal is a man trying to do something about that distress/struggle. Whether what he has developed is perfect or not — he has had the guts stand up and try — in a very public way. Finding weakness in his system should happen. Finding solutions & contributing is even better.

    While I’m at it, I think it is also clever to at least try to free up class time by sending the basics home as home work (since home work is required apparently) & use class time to cover more creative problem solving skills, or to figure out why students are stuck and then spend class time to figure out exactly how they are stuck and unstick them. Even the simple idea that teachers should spend class time with closer 1:1 working with their students is a great notion to spread. I understand you do this. But I don’t think most teachers achieve a really good understanding of how, individually, their student learn or where they get stuck. So maybe the analysis software is not perfect but it can provide hints – did the children do their homework? If not, why not? Did they pass their quiz? Which problems did they miss? Right now a teacher has to gather this information manually & usually days after the struggle. With an on-line assessment/quiz tool (for basics – NOT creative problem solving), the teacher walks into a class with data in hand the next morning. They will have a better idea where to start helping and at a time closer to where the misunderstanding occurs and which students are comfy cozy and which to work with more closely. I’m all for a tool that speeds up the process of quickly identifying difficulties and tools that free up a teachers time so the can spend more time thinking about why the struggle is happening or methods to better reach the student(s). Well — again — why not directly share with Sal what stinks about the analysis and what works so they can work to improve it? Way more helpful than anti-Sal contingent blogging about how the analysis stinks.

    One last thing that I think Khan’s resource offers – In most classes, kids who are ready to move forward have almost no way to do so. Our educational system needs to be more nimble to allow those who are ready to bound forward a chance to do so. Nothing creates more apathy than sitting day after day without a chance to enrich your mind. At least with access to a resource like Khan’s a child has a chance to learn something new — if a kids is capable and wants to then he can “play” with Trig. Now. The fact that this problem exists at all may be more of a reflection of the failure of our school systems to meet all children’s learning needs and less a reflection about what is so great about Khan’s resource. But, I have not seen school systems budge… not a bit… to address this problem. This may not be true in you school but it is true of the vast majority of school systems – especially during the elementary and middle school years. So, yes, I welcome a tool that allows kids to move forward and stay fired up about learning — even if it is formulaic. Can you guess why we home school?

    I submit all my comments with deep respect for you and your teaching ideas and abilities. Your blog is rich with creative ideas and I delight in reading them. I just really wish there was less mud slinging at Sal’s effort and more energy/effort placed into collaborating. I’ll bet he would listen. I’ll bet if you shared really high quality creative problem solving content in a way that masses of learners could use… I’ll bet Khan (and Bill – the man with the money) would welcome that addition. I would love to see a really great idea made into an outstanding educational resource.

    Marilyn

    • June 12, 2011 10:53 pm

      Marlyn,
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful and detailed reply. I don’t think I’m attempting to sling mud at Salman Khan. In my teaching, I benefit greatly from colleagues coming into my classroom and critiquing (sometimes bluntly) what it is I do day in and day out. I’m not sure Khan is getting this sort of feedback from his work—he has no formal training in teaching, no time in a classroom, and isn’t working with any teachers at all, as best I can tell. But my problem really isn’t with him putting up his lectures online and sharing them with the world—that’s great.

      My problem is how the rest of the world, and the media in particular have anointed him the messiah of math and future of education. To me, this is prime evidence that to most of the world, education is just learning the procedure to get the questions right, earn the grade and move on to the next thing. And to me, this is a huge problem. Given how Bill Gates has chosen to align himself in the educational debate (focusing entirely on high stakes testing, anti union promoting, etc) , I’m not at all sure he understands this either.

      But I will consider what you suggest very seriously, and hope to explore these ideas further in future blog posts.

      • June 22, 2011 7:39 am

        John – thanks for clarifying. I understand your concern with the anointing phenomenon. I agree that attention should be drawn to the issue so that the public & Khan & Bill stop to question themselves.

        I abhor the use to which standardized testing is put, the frequency and intensity of use, and the subsequent affects on the ability of teachers to work with kids on more critical learning processes beyond fact memorization. I’m disgusted with the vitriol spewed, by certain public individuals/groups, at teachers. Though I think we need educational reform, I think these practices and attitudes seriously detract from finding and implementing real solutions.

        I understand the need to get the public’s attention. Maybe it is so many years working for a corporation — I just would like to spend more energy working on productive solutions.

        • October 22, 2011 1:59 pm

          The education mafia isn’t going to give up trillions of education dollars without a fight. And here’s all we’ve gotten from the education mafia so far:

          TIMSS Science Performance of our 12th graders was significantly lower than for our 8th graders, whereas it was significantly higher for most other countries, including South Africa (whose performance compared to the international average increased 38 points). How then can it be explained that ours DECREASED 40 points? Sweden increased 39 points, the Netherlands, who already scored 25 points higher than us in the 8th grade, increased 13 points, leaving their 12th graders 78 points ahead of ours. Iceland, whose 8th graders scored 41 points lower than ours, increased their scores by 70 points. Norway increased their scores 32 points, Denmark by 46 points, Canada 16 points, New Zealand 18 points, Switzerland 16 points, France 4 points, Cyprus 0 points.

        • October 23, 2011 1:23 pm

          I’m not sure what this “education mafia” is of which you speak, but I see nothing in the contract between Vi Hart and Sal Khan that seems to indicate the trying to inspire students to understand the beauty and insight behind math will somehow preclude higher test scores on the TIMSS.

  6. June 10, 2011 6:49 pm

    Avery, sure. At 4:28-ish he starts to make some meaning, noticing that 36*3 is what they just calculated and that the 2 in front of the 3 is really representing 20, so the task is to find out what 20*36 is. Then starting at 6:52 (until he gets to 77*77) he is exploring the place value concepts and meaning behind the algorithm. Someone like Marilyn’s son could learn a lot from that, having a real “aha!” moment.

    I don’t, by the way, think that Vi’s video (except with lots of stopping and repeating and playing along) is easy to learn from either! Or that Sal’s video is worse. Just different.

    Mainly my point is that one big difference I see when they are played in succession and I try to compare and contrast (which is a valid exercise, I think) is the difference in learning or sense-making strategies. I’d use Vi’s video (like a think aloud) to help kids with reasoning and sense making before I’d use Sal’s. But I’d happily use Sal’s to help kids understand the standard algorithm, especially if they (like Marilyn’s son) were good reasoners and sense-makers already and didn’t get nervous by the parts he seems a little nervous about.

    One other little thing if Sal happens to be reading this… 77*77 might not be the best example for your 2nd time multiplying two 2-digit numbers. If you’re struggling to think about place value having the same value in every place might hide some ideas. That and I liked the place value reputation of 100 + 0 + 8 and 700 + 20 + 0.

  7. June 10, 2011 10:13 pm

    I don’t, by the way, think that Vi’s video (except with lots of stopping and repeating and playing along) is easy to learn from either!

    Stopping and starting and playing along. If you don’t do them, you don’t learn from either video. But with one, you feel like you did.

    That’s worse than not having watched anything. Now, besides the fact that you still need to spend the time learning multiplication, you also need to spend time unlearning the assumption that you know it already. Plus, you get to enjoy that sinking fear that you are an idiot for not being able to do something that was so clearly already “taught” to you.

  8. June 10, 2011 10:46 pm

    Sal does it backwards. He teaches the algorithm and only once he’s done, some seven minutes into the video, does he explain place value (“it’s really a 20”). Vi makes the connection to area, and breaks up the problem so you don’t have to worry about procedures like carrying the one. Vi anticipates the I-don’t-care mentality of students and goes meta. Even if that crazy equation has an unambiguous meaning according to The Rules, she explains, it’s not explicitly clear and therefore not helpful. This is an incredibly powerful sentiment, when the teacher expresses dislike for the same thing the students are complaining about – meaningless scribbles.

  9. June 10, 2011 11:05 pm

    How do you balance the need for practice and drill…

    I’m not so sure there is such a need for practice and drill. I’ve been watching my young daughter teach herself how to add, subtract, and multiply for the past couple of weeks (she’s homeschooled, or maybe closer to “unschooled”), and it has caused me to discover and reflect upon the fact that I don’t use the nearly mindless algorithms (e.g. carrying and borrowing) I spent so much time on in elementary school, and I no longer have much of the multiplication table memorized. Beautifully, my daughter seems to be successfully bypassing most of that silliness as well. Because she does arithmetic using her actual understanding, it takes her (like me) a second or two longer than a typical elementary school student, but why would it matter?

  10. June 11, 2011 6:59 am

    Marilyn,

    An elegant and thought-enriching comment you have provided. Thank you!

    Bo

  11. Rafael permalink
    June 11, 2011 12:09 pm

    Without criticising the contents of the post at all – most of which I agree with – can I point out a methodology flaw?
    In your Google Trends graph, you compare “Kahn academy” with “vi hart”. Seeing as the name of the renowned video presenter is actually Sal Khan, can we imply that the number of people who misspell his name has increased drastically over the months?🙂

  12. June 22, 2011 10:43 am

    Interesting point of view, I have used both videos as a way to gain appreciation and learn math. What you say is true, but I don’t think its a case of vi hart vs. salman khan. I think the videos and insight in vi harts videos are mainly meant as inspiration to get you to learn math, while salman khans videos teach the math in the way that you hope leads the student to the bigger picture. Vi hart talks about topology a lot, in terms of symmetry etc. but how can you understand topology without having understood the foundations that sal lectures on. Its good to get the big picture but know that in math there are no short cuts you have to put in the grunt work and understanding varied areas such as topology and algebraic geometry begins with what the khan academy demonstrates.

    • June 22, 2011 11:42 am

      Here’s my point—I don’t think Sal Khan understands math (and certainly not physics or history) as well as the media says he does. He has a functional understanding of it, and he can scratch a layer slightly below that, but he doesn’t understand it like a master teacher does. He doesn’t see the big picture, and he doesn’t see all the pitfalls and misconceptions students are likely to fall into along the way. This is to be expected. He has no training as a teacher—his training in math and economics was mostly focused on preparing him for a career as a hedge fund manager. I’m sure if I left my teaching gig, and started to try to pick stocks for a living, even if I got lucky and picked a lot of winners, people would still say my analysis doesn’t have the depth and insight of someone who is trained in the field and has been doing it for a long time, and they’d be foolish to invest their life savings with me.

      So I get frustrated when the media and popular culture thinks that Sal is the “world’s greatest teacher” , and I worry for what it says about how we view education as a society—that learning is just about picking up the skills, or filling a student’s head with knowledge. We could probably train surgeons in a paint by numbers fashion—there are probably many tailors who know a hell of a lot more about knots than most chief residents. But I would never want to go under the knife of a surgeon who learned “the basics” of surgery from a series of videos like Khan academy, because I want my surgeon thinking about the big picture of what he/she is trying to do from the very moment he/she first learns how to hold a scalpel.

  13. Ken J permalink
    June 22, 2011 3:54 pm

    In a world that is based on high stakes testing (NCLB and comparisons to other countries with different education systems) Kahn can seem a savior. The problem as stated numerous times above is depth and “true” understanding. It is the old story of giving a fish or teaching to fish. Kahn and most videos will give a kid who is struggling a fish. Tests are passed credits earned and there is much rejoicing. But come to Texas and see TAKS test scores rise as SAT scores drop. Which is better? Education as a whole needs to take a long look at what are the goals and mission. Is it bubbling scantrons or the ability to learn how to adapt and think creatively? What do we want as our final product? What kind of world will we have with Kahn Academy kids? I believe we as educators need to decide that “good enough” is not “good enough”. Kahn is a guy that started tutoring his niece and nephew turned a YouTube star. He is the Justin Beiber of education like the 55 rules guy. I have that book somewhere. I suggest all educators take a look at the modeling approach of Marzano. He has real data with valid peer edited research that points us in the right direction. Now I am sure I have misspelled something above but my iPhone likes to autocorrect too much and I have spelling issues. I do love the discussion and hope we all find a deeper understanding of what out quest in education should be about.

  14. Logan C permalink
    June 26, 2011 1:58 pm

    My sixth graders love Vi Hart. They are inspired by her- I think they see through her videos that mathematics is about wonder and creativity. We spent a day following up on Sierpinski triangles and calculated the limits of the area and the perimeter (0 and infinity? Wow!!!!). During a field trip, when they were supposed to be finding fungi, they were instead bringing me ferns to share the wonders of fractals in the real world.

    Of course, Vi Hart isn’t trying to deliver a curriculum; she’s lighting fires that help me engage students as they move through my curriculum, though unfortunately only at a couple of points during my units of study. I’m lucky enough to teach through CMP (Connected Mathematics Project) which does push students to understand what underlies the algorithms that they will eventually use as tools to engage in ever-more sophisticated fields of mathematics.

    Khan Academy isn’t lighting fires, and it isn’t providing great conceptual insight to my students; the videos address a different purpose. I can’t wait until someone creates a library as comprehensive as Khan Academy’s and with the passion and depth of Vi Hart’s.

    • June 26, 2011 8:15 pm

      Khan Academy isn’t lighting fires, and it isn’t providing great conceptual insight to my students; the videos address a different purpose. I can’t wait until someone creates a library as comprehensive as Khan Academy’s and with the passion and depth of Vi Hart’s.

      This would be great—but I’m still not sure it would be the transformative innovation that Khan Academy has been billed as.

      • artoftheproblem permalink
        September 29, 2011 12:40 pm

        I have been trying to marry both Kahn, Vi Hart and also Jame Burke for a while now. I launched a program called Art of the Problem on Kickstarter which explores deep math problems through time.

        I currently have a few clips from the upcoming episode which explain important concepts from math (such as probability space and prime factorization) using new analogies and a unique visual style. I’d love to get some feedback on these clips which are on my Youtube page:

        http://www.youtube.com/user/ArtOfTheProblem?feature=mhee

        • September 29, 2011 2:25 pm

          Wow! That’s a seriously cool video, and I wish I’d seen it when I was a 6th grader learning about prime factorization. I look forward to checking out your other stuff. The only thing I’d say is that you end the video with the note that prime factorization is one of the greatest discoveries in math, but you don’t say why. This would be and awesome way to lead in to how factorization is the critical piece to modern day public key cryptography, and the reason you can buy stuff online without worrying about having your credit card stolen.

  15. artoftheproblem permalink
    September 29, 2011 2:29 pm

    Thanks. Well EXACTLY. The episode I’m working on is on cryptography, from cave man to RSA. I was thinking of putting that as a lead-in once I have that video finished!

    • artoftheproblem permalink
      September 29, 2011 2:29 pm

      Woah…I hope that comment didn’t seem angry. I was just excited that you made the connection…sorry!

  16. October 26, 2011 12:51 pm

    John Burk wrote:

    “I’m not sure what this ‘education mafia’ is of which you speak, but I see nothing in the contract between Vi Hart and Sal Khan that seems to indicate the trying to inspire students to understand the beauty and insight behind math will somehow preclude higher test scores on the TIMSS.”

    Agreed, John. And agreed with just about every other one of your points, so please excuse the confusion. This was a reply to Marilyn’s statement, which I should have quoted in order to avoid confusion. So here it is:

    “I’m disgusted with the vitriol spewed, by certain public individuals/groups, at teachers. Though I think we need educational reform, I think these practices and attitudes seriously detract from finding and implementing real solutions.”

    My point is that, because of our status quo with education, we’re headed for a revolution which might be bloodier than the American Revolution.

  17. January 3, 2012 5:45 pm

    What do you think of this?

    Looks like Vi Hart is now on the faculty of the Khan Academy.

  18. Anonymous permalink
    November 25, 2014 5:27 am

    Sal has explained things WAY better than any teacher ever has, and the way you just accuse him of actually not showing the “bigger picture”, that’s just unfair. You claim that he has “encouraged memorisation at times”, and I think most would agree that some things you do have to just remember, and every other thing, he actually explains concept. Plus, Sal’s goal is to allow education to reach EVERYONE, and he is doing a great thing.
    I am also a die-hard fan of Vi Hart, and yes her videos are amazing and so brilliant, and perhaps her conceptual ideas should be developed into the curriculum, but you need to keep in mind that a lot of students struggle in normal school as it is, and Sal is doing a great job helping them through. I do agree that Vi’s ideas should be exposed to everyone, but not until they have a firm grasp on what they are learning. And people label Sal’s things as “excellent”, because they are. He can explain things so thoroughly and clearly; just ask any student that watches his videos. Showing everyone Vi Hart’s stuff does require a bit more depth and understanding, and all capabilities should be kept in mind.

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