Teaching High School Mathematics
I’ve been teaching math for just shy of 20 years. I love teaching math and always have. about 10 years ago I was assigned to teach two sections of Cognitive Tutor Geometry for a couple of years. I
couldn’t stand “teaching” this particular class. Here are the reasons:
Around that same time, I dabbled in trying to make videos for my Pre-Calculus and Calculus classes and also ran across Khan Academy online. I liked the explanations. Usually they were very similar to how I would explain a topic. Even as Khan Academy introduced problem sets and a web of learning, It still was ready, in my opinion to be used in a classroom. Plus, I still had the haunting memories from Cognitive Tutor.
Fast Forward to last year…
Khan Academy has drastically improved their teacher ability to assign things and review student data. I investigated their system at the end of the year and over the summer. In the summer they added some additional new features. This year I decided to use Khan Academy in my classes. Our students all have chromebooks assigned to them for school and home.
I’ll explain why I think it works now and how I’m using it.
In my Calculus class I’ve used Khan Academy Sparingly. I’m teaching 3 sections of AP Calculus AB and I’ve assigned the problem sets in khan academy to my students to get extra review practice on topics. I don’t use it on a regular basis. I like the problem sets given and I think it’s pretty easy to assign review to students on that site. It’s also nice to help these students get familiar with Khan Academy so they can use it as a free SAT prep course.
In my Algebra course I’ve used Khan Academy extensively this year. My Algebra class is called “Intermediate Algebra” and the students in the course have already taken Algebra and Geometry. However, many either failed Algebra or earned a D, some earned credit after additionally going to summer school. These students are not ready for Algebra 2. Intermediate Algebra has topics from Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 and meet the state requirement for topics that must be taught in a 3rd year of math.
This has worked great for me so far this year. The first reason is that students in this class are at many different levels. I have students who don’t know their multiplication facts to students who already know and remember how to factor quadratics. This system has allowed me to move students ahead that are ready. I assign all students the same topics we’ve done in class, but allow students who are ahead to choose their own extra topics. Typically, this class is a challenge to teach out of a textbook because you spend so much time working with the lower half of the class that there is little time for those who are ready to move ahead. Now, with Khan Academy, those students can take control of their own learning and decide what they want to learn. I know have students who, on Khan Academy, have mastered anywhere from 10% to 80% of Algebra.
Another thing I have loved about this system is that I’m doing short lessons and students are spending way more time actually doing math in class. They are happy to help each other and seem eager to progress through a tough topic. I don’t have to feel like I can’t help a student because I only help a student after they have submitted an answer and gotten it incorrect. Now, Khan Academy knows they are struggling with the topic and I also gotten a chance to help them improve. Now, when they get more of the same type of problems they get a chance to prove they can do them on their own. Many students have said that they have never done this much work before in their math class. When students are absent they also know they are expected to get on and do their assignment and spend 30 mins. on old topics. It’s a great feature because each of my classes has at least 6 students absent every day.