Khan Academy Teacher Highlighted in the San Jose Mercury News


If you’re a regular visitor to our blog, you’ve probably read a post or two by Alison Elizondo, a fourth-grade teacher at Burnett Elementary in Milpitas, California. Recently, the San Jose Mercury News highlighted the work Alison is doing to personalize instruction for her students and the recognition her efforts have earned, both in California and internationally. In one month, Alison both received a visit from California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and spoke at the Transformar 2014 conference on education innovation in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Congratulations, Alison, and keep up the excellent work!

You can read the full article here (by Aliyah Mohammed, San Jose Mercury News, Friday, September 12, 2014).

You can also find a case study of Alison’s classroom here in Khan Academy’s Coach and Classroom Resources.

Video Tasks on the Learning Dashboard

Khan Academy is now introducing video tasks on the learning dashboard. Prior to this release, the mission dashboard consisted exclusively of practice and mastery tasks—problems to practice and interact with the skills. If a student didn’t know how to do a particular exercise, they would have to rely on the video in the specific skill or manually look up the video, and there was no way to know ahead of time which videos are particularly useful and which aren’t. With this in mind, we decided to research which videos on our site are most effective in helping people learn. We then wanted to explore how we could make sure students see these videos when trying to learn related skills.

Many of our exercises are tagged with “curated related videos”—videos that are hand-selected as related to the exercise. Using this as a starting point, we looked at all the videos that were already tagged as related to any exercise. For each of these videos, we compared the accuracy on its associated exercise both before watching the video and after watching it. From there, we selected the top fifty most effective videos, each improving the accuracy on its associated exercise by at least twenty percent, and are now highlighting them on the mission dashboard. When the system recommends an exercise with an associated video on the list of our top fifty related videos, it will automatically recommend the related video as well. Similarly, when an exercise with an associated video task is manually added to a student’s list of exercises as a personal task, the video task will also be added automatically.

A student might watch the video before attempting the exercise, which is why we place the video tasks immediately above its associated exercise. Alternatively, a student may want to attempt the exercise first, and if they struggle with the exercise then they can close it out temporarily and watch the video before trying again.

If a student doesn’t need to watch the video, the video task can disappear in three ways. If the student watches the video, the video task will never reappear for that student. The student can also remove the video task without watching it and it will never again be shown to them. Finally, if the student completes the associated exercise and renavigates to the mission dashboard (refreshing the page, e.g.), the video task will also go away. However, in this last scenario, if the exercise ever reappears on the mission dashboard of this student, the video task will also return.

We sincerely hope you find this update as exciting and useful as we do!

Valuable new resource for math classrooms that use the MAP test

Over the past few years working in math classrooms, we’ve noticed that schools across the country often take NWEA’s MAP assessment.  This adaptive test provides teachers with insight into where their students are at the start the school year, and how much growth they’re able to achieve by the middle and end of the school year.  Now, we’re happy to say that there’s an easy way to use Khan Academy alongside the MAP assessment!  NWEA had linked Khan Academy’s content to MAP results with this free, handy tool.  If your students take the MAP assessment at the start of the school year, you can look up their scores on this site to find out which skills in Khan Academy they’re ready for next.  You’ll also be able to see which Common Core standards align with the skills, which can give you insight into the grade-level or subject-level mission that is most appropriate for your students. 

We hope this resource will be helpful for all the MAP-taking math classrooms out there!

Join our College Tutor Challenge!

This summer, Khan Academy is joining forces with Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society to help get students ready for the fall. The College Tutor Challenge offers prestigious awards to the best tutors in math.


Interested in sharing this information with students at your college? Follow this link to learn more about the competition and email with any questions about promoting the challenge at your college.

Spreading the word about Khan Academy at ISTE

Thanks to our partners at the KA in Idaho initiative, Khan Academy featured prominently at the 2014 International Society for Technology in Education Conference. In addition to representing us at the Common Sense Media Booth at ISTE, Eric and Jesse from KA in Idaho held a formal session on “Using KA in your Math Classroom.”


In all, 215 people attended, and the training was standing room only. Congratulations to Eric, Jesse, and the entire KA in Idaho team on hosting such a successful session, and thanks so much for spreading the word about KA!

Summer already?

Summer vacation is here – a time to rest, recharge, and most importantly, reflect. Personally, I find myself thinking about the goals my students and I set at the beginning of the year. Although I’m sad to see the school year end, there’s still lots to celebrate. Not only did my students and I have fun learning together all year, but we also accomplished almost all our goals!

On the first day of instruction for the 2013-2014 school year, each student made one long term goal on a Khan Academy leaf (available here in Coach and Classroom Resources!). When we were disassembling our leaves from the ‘We <3 2 Learn’ bulletin board on the last day of school, we noted that 91% of the kids met their yearly goal! This was cause for celebration. In addition, I created and met the goal of beginning Khan Academy on the first day. After that was achieved, I added the goal of continuing with KA until the last day of school. This was easy because this class LoVeD Khan Academy. It is evident in the data. As a class, they mastered 4,432 modules. Energy points were very motivating for my 4th graders. Collectively, they earned over 14,295,000! Usually, their homework consisted of spending 20 minutes on the site mastering skills on the playlist. Consistently, they invested many more minutes than were required. All together, ‘my’ kids spent more than 160,272 minutes (or 4,338 hours). My highest girl progressed all the way to writing expressions and my highest boy mastered measurement precision. I love Khan Academy for this reason. High performing students can progress as fast as they can.


This was my third year using Khan Academy as the platform of my blended learning rotational model. I can confidently say, that KA has been the best tool, motivator and model for my students and myself. My ‘We <3 2 Learn’ continues to be an 80 minutes math ‘program’ that allows me time to coach individual students on skills he/she is struggling to understand. Peer coaching took off this year. It was a treat to see how my 9 year olds could create and communicate new ways of solving math problems.


For me, this was the most motivating year so far. There was literally a buzz in our classroom during math time. Students were engaged and excited to learn. The highlight of the year for me was my visit to Brazil. After two observations by the Brazil folks, I was asked to speak at their innovations in education conference: Transformar. Remember, I am a fourth grade teacher, not a public speaker. After I quickly got used to the 800+ faces looking at me, I just spoke about my passion for Khan Academy and for my blended learning rotational model.

I set five personal development goals for the year.

1. I challenged myself to increase the rigor of my performance tasks. Check.

2. I had the obligation to change my Board Math template to Common Core Board Math. I used KA’s Common Core map to find the most rigorous practice problems to include in my weekly board. Check.

3. It was important to me that Khan Academy was utilized every day of class. Check.

4. I wanted to use KA in a different way. I had never used playlists, so I added this method. I really liked it! Check.

5. It was important that I share my ideas with anyone interested in observing. Check. We had more visits than I can remember!

Khan Academy is constantly evolving. Khan Academy models exactly what I want for my students. Together we have achieved so much. Burnett students took risks, learned how to coach classmates, opened their creative minds, learned many new skills and became experts at collaborating. These students organically set long and short term goals for themselves. I genuinely believe that the students in Room 303 love to learn. This is a gift that Khan Academy and I gave to each one of my amazing students.

As the summer progresses, I know that many more creative scenarios will be designed for the 2014-2015 school year; We <3 2 Learn will be better than ever!

Khan Academy Teacher Published in Education Week

If you’ve explored our Coach and Classroom Resources or read our blog in the past, you may remember Silvestre (“Silver”) Arcos, an award-winning math teacher who uses Khan Academy to personalize his instruction at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School. This week, Silver shared his blended learning journey in a blog post for Education Week, offering words of wisdom for teachers everywhere. You can find his article below - it’s a must-read for any educator interested in using technology to differentiate their teaching. Thanks for sharing your story, Silver, and congratulations!

You can view the original article here (by Silvestre Arcos, Education WeekWednesday, June 18, 2014).


How I Blended My Math Class

A little over two years ago, my current principal, Danny Swersky, emailed me about his vision for math instruction at KIPP: Washington Heights Middle School, a charter school that would soon be opening in New York City. Specifically, he told me that he wanted to personalize students’ learning with the help of technology. He encouraged me to play around a little with Khan Academy, the online lesson-content provider. I was immediately intrigued.

At that point in the school year, I had covered all of the standards that would be on the New York state test and was interested in finding new ways to engage my students while continuing to boost their skills. So I wheeled a set of school iPads into my classroom and introduced my students to the Khan website. Their response was even more enthusiastic than my own. They quickly started using the site to practice skills, earn “energy points,” and demonstrate mastery. I was excited about the instructional opportunities this kind of tool might present.

Two years later, I’m the founding 5th math grade teacher at KIPP: Washington Heights. My math classroom and my approach to teaching look quite different than they did during the first decade of my teaching career. In particular, my students spend more time working on the computers and in small groups, and I spend far less time teaching whole-class lessons.

My basic approach is to plan a general mini-lesson that targets a specific common-core standard, emphasizing problem-solving and conceptual understanding. I then look at the skills-progress report generated by the Khan site and group students based on their levels of progress on the standard in question. Students who have shown mastery in the skill complete a short exit ticket as they enter the classroom and then head to their laptops to go deeper into the topic or explore new topics. Students who need practice or are struggling with the standard complete some warm-up exercises and then take part in my mini-lesson. I scaffold the instruction by modeling and using visual representations to solve the problems along with them. The students then go to their laptops to continue their practice on the standard. At that point, I often bring together the more advanced students to work on a separate activity related to the skill we’re working on.

Meeting Individual Learning Needs

Leveraging technology in this way has allowed me to meet my students’ individual needs and push them at their current levels of proficiency. As the students work independently or in pairs at their computer work stations, I regularly pull students who need a smaller-group setting to access the day’s lesson. I also group students that need support with the language and background information, and I sit and work with students in ones or twos to address specific issues. Everyone in the room is working at their own level and pushing themselves forward at their own pace. By providing lesson scaffolds in various ways, I am able to make sure that all of my students, regardless of their individualized learning plan goals or English-language learning classification, are working on grade-level standards.

This model of math instruction also provides an excellent opportunity to teach students independence and responsibility, as well as to push them to live the character strengths of grit, optimism, and curiosity. At the beginning of every unit, I create posters that list the Khan Academy exercises aligned with our current unit of study from our curriculum scope and sequence. After choosing between Khan Academy and ST Math, a game-based instructional software program, student look at their individual skills-progress reports to decide what they need to practice and then work the exercises at their own pace. Once they have completed the playlist, they can demonstrate their curiosity by exploring new topics.

Once or twice a week, I project the whole-class skills-progress report to give the students a sense of where we are as a cohort and to give them an idea of who is working on the same skills. I frequently confer with students individually to give them feedback on the choices they’ve made in selecting what skills to practice and what exercises to use. Early in the year I go over strategies that they can use if they are stuck in deciding how to progress. In these ways, I aim to build the students’ sense of autonomy and independence and their ability to find their own solutions—characteristics they will need to succeed in later grades. Technology allows for the personalization of their character development as well as their academic development.

As a teacher, I’ve also recently been influenced by education researcher Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk titled “Build a School in the Cloud,” which emphasizes the importance of student collaboration. I’ve begun to incorporate more collaborative activities into my classroom—for example, by having students work on skills activities in pairs or small groups. I believe the students make significant cognitive and content-understanding gains by asking each other questions and in effect teaching each other the skills.

Shout Outs and Results

At the end of every class, my students have a chance to give a shout out to themselves or others for their accomplishments. “I want to give myself a shout out for leveling up on the exercise on Line Plots,” a student might say. “It was difficult for me in the beginning, but I showed grit, stuck to it, and was able to complete the exercise.” Students burst into applause and cheers when others earn their first “Sun Badge” to reward them for showing mastery on 100 skills. Once they meet their goals, they create new ones. On my classroom door, I post students’ names along with the Khan “energy points” they’ve earned and the number of skills that they’ve mastered. The students become increasingly optimistic that they can improve their achievement and their future opportunities through their own effort.

By using this model over the past two years, I’ve learned that students at every level can make tremendous gains in math achievement. This was not always the case in my classes. I used to see a lot of growth in my students of average proficiency, but I was never as successful in pushing my most advanced students to make significant gains or in making time regularly to help bring up the students who struggled the most. Now I’m finding ways to reach all of my students, many of whom enter our school several grade-levels behind in math.

Over the course of this year, the percentage of my students who were in the bottom quartile on the Measure of Academic Progress benchmarking assessment dropped from 50 to 11. Meanwhile, the percentage of students in the top quartile went from six to 41. Over the last two years, 99 percent of my 5th graders have met their growth goals on the Measure of Academic Progress test. They’ve also fared well on the state tests, performing above city and state averages and outpacing students in other schools with similar demographics.

Perhaps no less gratifyingly, we have seen students continuing to grow and learn outside of the math classroom. It is not rare for students to call or text me to let me know that they have earned a new badge or that they have met a certain goal. I feel that I am getting closer to achieving my goal of turning all of my students into independent learners.

Next year, I’ll be taking on a new position as the math instructional coach in my school. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in my school and around the nation on improving and scaling up this blended-learning model. It has helped me see new possibilities in instruction and improved my ability to address students’ individual needs—something that is huge for me, as I know it is for all teachers. I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned about the power of truly personalized math instruction.

Veronica Gonzalez: College Hero

This week’s college hero not only enjoys learning on Khan Academy but also wants to bring the joy of learning to others. Veronica Gonzalez is planning to become a teacher and using our site to prepare. Here’s what she had to say about her experience with Khan Academy.


Tell us about yourself

I’m an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s School of Arts and Sciences and School of Education. I am studying Elementary Education, with Spanish as my major and mathematics as my minor. My passion is to become a certified bilingual elementary or middle school teacher with a specialization in math, because language and mathematics are two fields that I feel are very important for society. I also love art and all kinds of music (My favorite band is Soda Stereo from Argentina!). I also enjoy spending quality time with my loved ones and friends.

How do you use Khan Academy?

I use KA mainly for mathematics, though I have used it for biology as well. I started using it in college because I remembered that the website was very useful to me while I was taking AP Calculus AB, and I enjoyed the teaching style that Sal had to offer. KA has ultimately helped me to understand math concepts better and, I would say, even to ace my most recent college math class, Calculus II. The dashboard and mastery challenges are also motivating and fun, which helps me to come back to the website more often.

How has Khan Academy helped you?

As a future educator, I have liked Khan Academy because first of all, Sal is an awesome and fun teacher. He is meticulous about the way he explains things (as well as the colors he uses to do so!), which is a quality that I hope to involve in my own teaching in the future. Secondly, he really knows and loves math, which has helped me to enjoy the subject more and to pursue it in both college and my career.

What words of wisdom would you share with others who are preparing for college?

I would tell them to put their time into studying, and to not be afraid to step into new subjects. Take those honors and AP classes, because they will be rewarding, and you will surprise yourself with the amount you can learn and do. I sure surprised myself, with my AP Language class, during which I wrote at least one paper per week (which is crazy for high school!), and with my AP Calc AB class because I ended up scoring a 5/5 on the AP test. Because of those two classes alone, I learned a ton, but I definitely had potential to grow even more during high school. Don’t be afraid to get into those classes, but also remember the importance of not overwhelming yourself, either!