Math can be fun: ALearn and Khan Academy help solve the achievement gap

Guest blog post by Kathryn Hanson, Founder and CEO of ALearn




“Khan Academy helped me a lot because I didn’t know a lot about ratios and expressions, but with Khan Academy and the help of my teacher and TA I learned to love math and have fun.” – ALearn middle school student

For many students, summer is a time to play outside, sleep in, and watch TV. School and learning become a blurred memory. Many of these students, especially low income students, then suffer “summer learning loss” and actually lose 2-3 months of math proficiency over the summer, falling further behind their peers—and accounting for over two-thirds of the achievement gap between low income and their higher income peers.. 

But for 1,200 first generation-to-college middle and high school students in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, the summer of 2013 offered a great opportunity to improve their skills in math and get on track to go college as they enrolled in ALearn’s Math Acceleration and Catalyst to High School programs. 

ALearn is a non-profit organization founded in 2007 that is committed to help more low-income, underrepresented students prepare for and complete college. Since then, ALearn has provided rising 6th, 7th, and 9th graders access to academic support programs and a college-going culture that has helped increase the number of college-bound students in the Silicon Valley. 

The majority of the students that ALearn serves come mostly from Title I schools, with high percentages of English Language Learners and students who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch Program. They often come with significant gaps in their math knowledge. They also lack the self confidence that they can do math well, and sometimes have given up on themselves. 

To face these challenges, ALearn uses a blended learning approach based on the new Common Core standards. Experienced, credentialed math teachers and energetic college student Teaching Assistants (TAs) use small groups, interactive hands-on activities, games, and Khan Academy computer modules to help students realize that math is not only necessary, but it can be fun as well. 




From all the resources and tools ALearn used this summer, Khan Academy stands out as one of the favorites for teachers, teaching assistants and students. When asked what he liked best about the program, an ALearn high school student responded that it was “Khan Academy because it was like having a personal math tutor in class and at home. I could just go to Khan [Academy] whenever I need help”. 

"…it was like having a personal math tutor in class and at home. I could just go to Khan [Academy] whenever I need help”.  - ALearn high school student

To most teachers, Khan Academy was new. To help them better reach their full potential using Khan Academy, ALearn included a comprehensive training session during its professional development that showed teacher and TAs how to use Khan to help students understand the math concepts better and at their own pace. “Incorporating the online resource of Khan Academy was engaging and fun for students while also allowing students to continue building their skills at home” commented an ALearn high school teacher. 

“Incorporating the online resource of Khan Academy was engaging and fun for students while also allowing students to continue building their skills at home” commented an ALearn high school teacher. 

Furthermore, teachers and TAs were able to monitor student progress using Khan Academy’s diagnostic features and intervene where necessary, a feature that allowed them to better meet the specific needs of their students. An ALearn middle school TA mentioned how “students were able to connect the lessons and test their knowledge with the exercises on Khan. They got excited to leave the classroom and go work on something else”. 




More importantly, students enjoyed using Khan Academy since they were in control of their progress and they even competed against each other to see which student got the most energy points. “I think that Khan Academy helped me the most because it would make sure you I did well and understood math completely. You would not be able to move on unless Khan [Academy] is completely sure you are ready to go to the next step” commented an ALearn middle school student. 

ALearn is glad to have such an effective and popular resource available at no cost to help more of its students achieve proficiency in math. For the third year in a row, ALearn has integrated Khan Academy into its academic curriculum, serving 100% of the students enrolled in its programs with significant practice using KA. ALearn students showed remarkable results and success using Khan Academy to supplement the curricula used in the classroom. Rather than losing competency in math over the summer, these students gained significantly. In the words of an ALearn middle school TA, “Khan Academy was definitely a major strength in this program.” 

Khan Academy a Big Hit at The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland

Guest blog post by Anne Kellerman, Director of Technology Programs at The Boys’ Latin of Maryland in Baltimore, MD.  

The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland is one of the oldest all-boys schools in the United States and a leader in boy centered education.  Using Khan Academy was, perhaps, a “no brainer” given our knowledge that boys are motivated by learning experiences which are dominated by interactivity, feedback and visual content.

Khan Academy at Boys' Latin

Boys’ Latin transitioned from a traditional print media Summer Math Review workbook to the Khan Academy web-based exercises beginning in June 2011.  Initially, our goal was three-fold -  to provide students with a more engaging set of practice exercises, to provide students with built in tutorials to review concepts, and to take advantage of the instant feedback that the site provides.  The Math Department developed skill set lists for each of our courses and created “playlists” for each course on our website.  Each fall when our students return to school, they are instructed to add their current math teacher as their Khan Academy coach.  In turn, the faculty member evaluates each student’s progress using the built in progress monitoring tools in Khan Academy.  Students have learned to take this important summer review work seriously, knowing that their hard work will be assessed for a significant grade during the first marking quarter.

Rising sophomore, Brendan Mullally notes  ”It’s accessible, easy, and fun to use.” 

Most importantly, student engagement in this summer math assignment has greatly improved.  Rising sophomore, Brendan Mullally notes  "It’s accessible, easy, and fun to use."  A group of rising 7th grade students remarked that they prefer the Khan Academy assignments (over the workbook) because they feel it is easier to visualize and solve the problems, and because the review tutorials are “really awesome.”

We feel the students are better prepared to “hit the ground running” in their math courses…

The transition to our Khan Academy based summer math review has been well received by students, parents, faculty and administration.  Moreover, we feel the students are better prepared to “hit the ground running” in their math courses each September.

Khan Academy Summer Math Review

Looking for a list of skills to review this summer? Check out the recommended practice exercises courtesy of the Boys’ Latin School in Maryland.  

For more math practice, log in and explore Khan Academy’s knowledge map.

Grade 6 Math 
1.      Adding and subtracting negative numbers
2.      Multiplying and dividing negative numbers
3.      Adding decimals
4.      Multiplying decimals
5.      Subtracting decimals
6.      Dividing decimals
7.      Greatest common divisor
8.      Least common multiple
9.      Divisibility
10.  Order of operations
11.  Mean median and mode
12.  Adding and subtracting fractions
13.  Multiplying fractions
14.  Dividing fractions
15.  Triangle types
16.  Angle types
17.  Converting decimals to percents
18.  Converting percents to decimals
19.  Converting mixed numbers and improper fractions
20.  Simplifying fractions

Pre-Algebra
1. Adding and subtracting negative numbers
2. Subtracting Decimals
3. Adding Decimals
4. Absolute Value
5. Division 3
6. Multiplying Decimals
7. Greatest Common Divisor (Factor)
8. Division 4
9. Order of Operations
10. Least Common Multiple
11. Exponents I
12. Adding and Subtracting Fractions
13. Multiplying Fractions
14. Dividing Fractions
15. Linear Equations
16. Complimentary and Supplementary Angles
17. Graphing Points 2
18. Ordering Numbers
19. Equivalent Fractions 2
20. Writing Expressions

Algebra 1
1. Prime Factorization
2. Greatest Common Factor 
3. Least Common Multiple
 
4. Dividing Fractions 
5. Order of Operation 
6. Evaluating Expressions 
7. Scientific Notation - video 
7. Scientific Notation - exercise
8. Exponent Rules 
9. Pythagorean Theorem 
10.  Percentage Word Problems 
11.  Writing Expressions
12.  Graphing Points 
13.  Slope of a Line 
14.  Graphing Linear Equations 
15.  Graphing Inequalities 
16.  Graphing Systems of Equations 
17.  Simplifying Radicals 
18.  Multiplying Expressions 
19.  Factoring  Polynomials 
20.  Factoring Difference of Squares

Geometry and
Geometry Honors
1. Angles 1
2. Angles 2
3. Complementary and Supplementary Angles
4. Distance Formula 
5. Solid Geometry
6. Adding Fractions
7. Dividing Fractions
8. Identifying Slope of a Line
9. Factoring Polynomials 1
10. Multi-step Equations
11. Multiplying Polynomials
12. Equations of Parallel and Perpendicular Lines
13. Multi-Step Linear Inequalities
14. Evaluating Expressions in 2 variables
15. Systems of Equations
16. Multiplying Expressions 1
17. Simplifying Radicals
18. Pythagorean Theorem
19. Special Right Triangles
20. Trigonometry 0.5

Algebra II
1. Inverses of Functions
2. Domain of a Function
3. Quadratic Formula
4. Solutions to Quadratic Equations
5. Systems of Equations
6. Solving Quadratics by Taking the Square Root
7. Solving Quadratics by Factoring
8. Graphing Parabolas in Standard Form
9. Graphing Paraboloas in All Forms
10. Equation of a Line
11. Solving for the Y-Intercept
12.  Completing the Square 1
13.  Trigonometry 1
14.  Simplifying Expressions with Exponents
15.  Factoring difference of squares 2
16.  Linear Equations 4
17.  Writing Expressions 2
18.  Inverse Trig Functions
19.  Shifting and Reflecting Functions
20. Vertex of a Parabola

Algebra II Honors
1. Solving for the Y-Intercept (Alg I)
2. Average Word Problems (Alg I)
3. Multi-step linear inequalities (2.1-3)
4. Linear Equations 4 (3.1-4)
5. Systems of Equations (3.5)
6. Domain of a Function (3.8)
7. Simplifying Expressions with Exponents (4.2)
8. Multiplying Expressions 1 (4.3)
9. Solving Quadratics by Factoring (4.5)
10. Factoring difference of squares 2 (4.6)
11.Simplifying Rational Expressions I  (5.4) 

12. Simplifying Rational Expressions II (5.4)
13. Multiplying Complex Numbers (6.7)
14. Completing the Square 1 (7.1)
15. Quadratic Formula (7.2)
16. Shifting and Reflecting Functions (7.5)
17. Inverses of Functions (10.3)
18. Trigonometry 1 (12.2)
19. Trigonometry 1.5 (12.2)
20. Writing Expressions 2 (whole text)

Precalculus
1. Systems of Equations and Inequalities
2. Trigonometry 2
3. Unit Circle
4. Trig Identities
5. Logarithms 2
6. Even and odd functions
7. Complex numbers
8. Exponents 4
9. Graphing Systems of Equations
10. Adding and Subtracting Fractions
11. Absolute Value of Complex Numbers
12. Scaling Vectors
13. Vectors
14. Domain and Range
15. Dividing Fractions
16. Degrees to Radians
17. Completing the Square
18. Factoring Polynomials
19. Inverse Trig Functions
20. Radical Equations

Pre-calculus Honors
1. Systems of Equations and Inequalities
2. Trigonometry 2
3. Unit Circle
4. Trig Identities
5. Logarithms 2
6. Even and odd functions
7. Complex numbers
8. Exponents 4
9. Graphing Systems of Equations
10. Adding and Subtracting Fractions
11. Dividing Polynomials by Binomials 3
12. Scaling Vectors
13. Vectors
14. Domain and Range
15. Dividing Fractions
16. Pythagorean Identities
17. Completing the Square
18. Factoring Polynomials
19. Inverse Trig Functions
20. Radical Equations 

Applied Calculus Honors
1. Expressions with Unknown Variables 2 
2. Logarithms 2 
3. Radical Equations
 
4. Domain of a Function 
5. Solving Quadratics by Factoring
6. Quadratic Formula
7. Trigonometry 1 (Alg 2) 
8. Trigonometry 1.5 (Alg 2)
9. Inverse Trig Functions (PC)
 
10. Limits 1
11. Limits 2 
12. Derivative Intuition
 
13. Derivatives I 
14. Power Rule
15. Chain Rule
 
16. Product Rule 
17. Quotient Rule 
18. Special Derivatives 
19. Unit Circle 
20. Trig Identities

 AP Calculus AB 
1. Limits 1 
2. Limits 2 
3. Derivative Intuition 
4. Derivatives I 
5. Power Rule 
6. Chain Rule 
7. Product Rule 
8. Quotient Rule  
9. Special Derivatives 
10. L’Hopital’S Rule 
11.Unit Circle 
12.Trig Identities
13. Inverse Trig Functions 
14.Adding Vectors 
15.Scaling Vectors 
16.Simplifying Rational Expressions 3 
17.Logarithms 1 
18. Logarithms 2 
19. Recognizing Concavity
20. Recognizing Slope