Sal Khan Responds to Critic

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding the Khan Academy recently — whether you’re a fan of the Academy or not, it can’t be denied that people are talking about it. Technapex covered math teachers John Golden and David Coffey’s clever critique of Khan Academy,  and Monday another math teacher critiqued Khan Academy on a Washington Post education blog, which you can read here.

Today, Khan responded to the critic in an email to Washington post. Here’s a link to the Washington Post education blog, and below is Khan’s email response to the editor of the blog:

Hi Valerie,

We here at the Khan Academy appreciate a public discourse on education and really encourage as much feedback as possible.  We believe that we are in the early days of what we are and feedback will only make that better.  I agree with you that no organization should be upheld as a magic bullet for education woes.  We have never said that we are a cure-all and think we have a lot to do just to fulfill our potential as a valuable tool for students and teachers. Unfortunately, some of the headlines on articles are more grandiose, but we have no say in this.

In your previous post, you talk about the value of experiential learning versus lecture-based.  We agree 100% with you; that is what KA is about too–allowing classrooms to be more interactive and experiential.  See this video: http://www.khanacademy.org/talks-and-interviews/v/ideal-math-and-science-class-time.

We are also running project based summer camps.

With that said, there have been some major errors on your blog.  In particular, Karim’s corrections are very incorrect (I encourage you to seek out an impartial math professor). 

 Slope actually is defined as change in y over change in x (or rise over run).

Karim’s definition is actually incorrect. Slope is not just a rate between two variables. It is how the variable plotted on the vertical axis changes with respect to the variable plotted on the horizontal axis (or “rise over run”). For example, if price were on the x-axis and memory on the y-axis, then Karim’s “how the price of an iPod changes as you buy more memory” would not be slope (it would be the inverse).

And, yes, slope is often unit-less (especially when measuring the slope of say the surface of a mountain which is where the whole idea comes from — you are dividing a distance by a distance so the units cancel).

I walk through this in a video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNaQJjLAhkI

I also think you might misunderstand our “business model.”  Unlike Mathalicious which is for-profit (and if it does well, Karim will become very wealthy), Khan Academy is a 501c3 not-for-profit.  I take a salary from it that is approved by the board, but I do not own it (no one does).  It can never IPO or be sold.  It is a public charity.

Let me know if you’d like to chat further.

regards,

Sal

What’s your opinion on the Khan Academy? Sound off in the comments below!

Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.

More Posts

About Caity Doyle

Caity is a former English teacher and the editor of Technapex. Caity is extremely passionate about education and is TriplePoint PR's resident edtech expert. When not researching education policy and edtech, she enjoys running along the Bay Trail while blaring the Boss through her headphones, watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, and meeting fellow Italians in North Beach.