Pro vs. Khan

The most famous teacher in the United States right now is Salman Khan, creator of Khan Academy.  Khan Academy is a collection of nearly 3,000 online youtube tutorials mainly about math and science.  Bill Gates watches the videos with his kids, and has made Khan a household name.  Because of Khan, a new buzz-word in education is the ‘flipped’ classroom where kids are expected to watch videos the night before and then do their ‘homework’ in class, supervised by the teacher.

There are already plenty of excellent math websites out there.  Though they are not videos, they have great well constructed examples. One such site is called Purple Math which is a lot like a textbook with detailed step-by-step explanations.

But Khan Academy allows students to watch, rather than read, and this is supposed to make it better. When I watched some sample videos, I was very surprised about the amount of attention they were getting. If a bank of video tutorials is supposed to revolutionize education, they should be taught by an incredible teacher. But what I found was that Khan was just an OK teacher. His examples are not well planned. His pacing is inconsistent. I’d say that at least half the math teachers in this country could do at least as good a job as Khan does. What is ironic about Bill Gates admiration of Khan is that Gates is investing so much energy right now into identifying what makes a great teacher to create better teacher evaluations. Yet the person he considers the best teacher is merely adequate.

So I decided I’d make a video sample to show how an online math video can be much better, including a bit of interactivity. I spent about two hours planning and recording this thirteen minute lesson. You can judge for yourself, but I think that it is much better than Khan’s. And I’m sure that there are many teachers out there who could do better than me.

What we need is a platform where teachers can upload their videos and the ones that are the best can be featured and those teachers can achieve some Khan-like fame. Instead Khan has a monopoly as the one man show.

The lesson that you can watch ‘dueling’ tutors is on using algebra to solve average problems. I chose this one because a principal I follow on Twitter linked to it, and wrote that this would not be an adequate lesson. His lesson has several problems. The numbers don’t work out nicely for the first example. The last example also doesn’t work out well. He skips from an easy concept to a hard one with no transition. Also, there is absolutely no interactivity. For my take on this lesson, I added questions and also put buttons that viewers are required to push when they have answered questions. Though my lesson is pretty good, there are still limitations that I sensed while recording it. When I am in front of a classroom, I gauge the energy level in the class. I look at the facial expressions of the kids and get a sense if they are with me. Also, I get to call on students to make sure they are not being too passive. None of this can be done with a recorded video.  Also, this type of tutorial is very low-level and does not encourage very deep thinking, even in my attempt.  To see an excellent video, far superior to what Khan or I made, check out the video by Vi Hart, which I have posted after the two tutorials.  Her videos have gotten nearly ten million views and they really deserve them. Also, feel free to check out more advanced videos I’ve made about ‘fun’ math topics on my own youtube page.

I encourage you to watch the videos and see which one you’ve learned more from.

Here’s Khan Academy

Here’s Rubinstein Academy

Here’s a gem from Vi Hart

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61 Responses to Pro vs. Khan

  1. John Gale says:

    Vi and Sal have done a videos together:

    My daughter and I watch Vi and Sal’s videos and here’s what I think is the most-misunderstood thing about Khan videos: the watcher is in control! You can pause, you can walk around, you can do your own manipulatives, and then rewind, restart. That’s what makes it not a ‘lesson’ in the traditional sense.

  2. Julie says:

    I agree. I checked out a Khan video on solving equations using elimination and I was surprised at how boring and quite frankly not very well done the video was. Glad you spoke up.

  3. Mr. B says:

    Khan’s idea is brilliant, but you’re right. It’s still very rough around the edges. You’re video is much better and the end result is a deeper mathematical understanding of the concept, rather than simply being able to compute.

    I’m in common core training all week, and one thing that came up today is that now is a great time to be a math teacher because of all the multimedia resources available. Not everything is perfect though, but if people can start pulling resources together and improving on good ideas, then we’re going to do a much better job educating our kids collectively.

  4. Mr. B says:

    **Your video… not you’re

  5. Cal says:

    But Gary, you aren’t a millionaire hedge fund manager doing the dilettante teacher thing as a hobby. Yours might be better but you–well, you know–you’re an actual teacher. Which means you aren’t very important, so who wants to watch your teaching when they can otherwise be thrilled at a hedge fund manager’s giving away his time for free?

  6. Phil Dawson says:

    “What we need is a platform where teachers can upload their videos”

    • Maria Thomas says:

      Thanks for the interesting and thought-provoking post. There is another place– just for K-12 teachers — where videos and other components of lessons can be uploaded and shared. It’s called BetterLesson. I am an advisor to the company and would be interested in your feedback on the idea. Maria Thomas

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  8. Wendy says:

    Your is SO much better! I found the Khan videos mediocre- and my children did not find them helpful at all when they tried to use them for help. BTW- purplemath is good!

    Thanks! Yet another example of the emperor having no clothes.

  9. wendy says:

    Your is SO much better. My children did not find the Khan videos helpful at all. Yet another example of the emperor having no clothes!

    (BTW, purplemath is very good!)

  10. wendy says:

    oops-typo. I meant “Yours”

  11. Ann Yuan says:


    I feel compelled to bring to your attention a new service that aims to deliver exactly those features that you identify as lacking in Khan Academy. It’s called LearnZillion, and its library of video lessons and teaching resources are freely available at The idea for LearnZillion actually came about after a group of teachers at E. L. Haynes public charter school in D.C. tried Khan out and ran across those same problems that you mention. With support from their principal, the teachers began to create video lessons themselves. The idea grew, and now hosts more than 400 lessons created by talented teachers from across the country.

    I must admit I work for LearnZillion, but I sincerely believe that it meets your description of a needed alternative to Khan, a “platform where teachers can upload their videos and the ones that are the best can be featured and those teachers can achieve some Khan-like fame”.


    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      I checked it out and it looks very nice!

    • Roshni says:

      Hi Ann,

      I just checked out and it seems great! I’m having similar issues with Khan Academy so this looks like a great alternative. I especially like how it’s aligned to the Common Core.

      How many users/teachers do you currently have? How many lessons do you plan to keep adding? Just want to make sure it’s adequate enough for my students before having my students sign up for the site.


      • Ann Yuan says:

        Hi Roshni,

        So glad you like the site! The content on the site was produced by ~20 teachers, but we would like to recruit 100+ teachers for our next cycle of content creation this summer. We plan to add 2,000 lessons by the end of this year, which will cover both math and ELA, mainly for grades 3-8, but we hope to have some high school content as well.

        Please let me know if you have any other questions!

  12. Delta Alum says:

    A few things I liked about Khan that I did not see in your lesson.

    1) He introduced the concept of averages, connecting to real world experiences where kids have encountered averages.
    2) I like that his first example was messy. In most real world applications, the average will not be a whole number. I especially disliked your second example–trying to find the average when all the numbers were 90. Why even teach students to calculate that? They should be tough to look and just realize the average will be 90. I think your lesson sort of dumbs things down and divorces it from reality.

    Overall, I think you would be better served to delve into why the Khan videos are resonating so much when others are not.

    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      I agree, a little ‘motivation’ may have been in order. Hard to gauge prior knowledge in a video. In a class, I might ask a student to explain what is meant by an average.

      The 90, 90, 90, 90, 90 example was included to give some students an ‘aha’ moment if it was not already obvious to them. It was also intended to justify that the total is equal to the average multiplied by the number of numbers. It may not have been the best decision on my part, but it was a deliberate one, while Khan’s ‘messy’ fractions was, most likely, just an example of something that happened by making up something on the fly. Maybe he intended it to be that way, I don’t know. He appears to be winging this lesson. It is not terrible for winging it, but if it could be improved, it should. It costs almost nothing to re-make it. I also don’t say that I’m the best person to do it, just that I can do better than what I see. Perhaps Khan can do better if he were to invest more time into it — then he should.

      • Phaus says:

        While you have proven that it is possible to produce video tutorials of a much higher quality than Khan’s, nobody has ever claimed otherwise. Your article, along with everyone who commented, gives one the impression that you people are simply jealous that you didn’t come up with the idea first.

        Khan academy started when its creator uploaded a few calculus videos on youtube for the sole purpose of tutoring his family members while he was away on business. The popularity of those videos made him realize that he could help others learn, and so he did.

        Khan’s is successful not because people care that he is a hedge fund manager, its because he chose to make something happen, as opposed to sitting around and complaining about how he could have done a better job than anyone else.

        Khan’s videos are crude, yet effective. His website, which remains completely free, has enabled millions of people to gain a better understanding of mathematics. While he is not a teacher by trade, I think it is safe to say that he has taught more students than you ever have or ever will. Not bad for a hedge fund manager.

      • Samuel says:

        Khan’s idea of posting videos that explain math content for free on the web is brilliant. Khan’s website is also seamless and the activities dashboard is fun and gives the user the idea that concepts build upon one another (which is awesome). The gripe that I have, and that many other educators have, is really two-fold.

        First, some videos do a pretty good job in explaining the concept, but many others do not, either because Khan misses where student misunderstandings happen, or because the examples Khan chooses to use do not completely prepare students to answer questions that are not posed in exactly the same way (same problem with the activities portion)

        The second gripe us educators have is the delusion that what Khan is doing is teaching. Yes he is presenting information and yes it is really useful that students are able to pause the videos, take a break, replay parts they misunderstood, etc., but some of the key aspects of TEACHING get lost because it is impossible to respond to student misunderstandings in a video, it is impossible to tap into student interests through a video (you have to know the student) and it is hard to decide how much prior-knowledge to assume the watcher has.

        Khan’s videos, and other instructional videos are an excellent resource for teachers and students to use, but they certainly should not be viewed as a substitute for teaching because, simply, they are not!

  13. shopgirl says:

    Khan did not promote his video’s. They organically became popular on You Tube. This is the reason he has gotten so much attention. There are hundreds of math videos online that people can use for free, but his are the ones people flock to…there is a reason for that.

    But now you have your video and we can see if more people learn from your video than his. If he is teaching wrong and people are learning from it, they will seek resources elsewhere (and those resources will become popular as more people use them). So we shall wait and see how your videos work out.

    Your hostility at Sal Khan is unfounded and unwarranted. If kids were learning math in school, there wouldn’t be 3.5M users a month using his site. He’s doing something right. You know the term “vote with your feet”, well Khan Academy is “vote with your mouse”.

  14. James Tharpe says:

    While I agree that there is a lot of room for improvement to Khan Academy, and I think that some of your ideas are very good, your post comes off as defensive rather than constructive. You seem threatened. Picking one video from hundreds (thousands?) and criticizing it is too easy. Would it be fair to visit your classroom on and off day, then criticize you as if your entire approach was simply “adequate”?

    Your analysis is also overly subjective; sure Khan’s pacing is sometimes inconsistent, but does that actually have a negative impact? You mention that the video format can’t respond to students, but you do not mention that the videos can reach children that have no other means of education. Sure, there are draw-backs, but you need to recognize the benefits as well. As it stands, you appear to be cherry-picking information that is convenient to support your argument.

    Khan has massive amounts of data showing the effectiveness of his techniques. He has completed exercise data form his websites, improved student performance on standardized tests, and qualitative feedback from students and teachers all demonstrating the effectiveness of his technique. Why not put your focus there, where real and measurable change can occur, rather than nitpicking about his technique?

    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      I really just picked the one video that someone sent to me. I’ve seen one or two other videos and I could have done a similar critique on them too.

      There are definitely benefits to having free online tutorials. But if they could be improved, they should be.

      • Phaus says:

        What you fail to understand is that his existing catalog of videos is getting the job done. Khan is busy creating new content. When exactly is he supposed to find time to rework thousands of videos?

        You have proven that you are capable of making high quality videos. Why not build a competitor? If Khan’s videos are really that bad then you’ll be rich in no time.

      • Samuel says:

        Khan and other people who work with/for Khan MUST re-do some videos because some of them are inadequate. Most of the videos I have seen (25+) fall in the decent to fairly-good range, but all could be much better if the folks at khanacademy would sit down and analyze the videos and improve upon them. I get that you are attacking Rubinstein for being critical of something that you clearly think is a good idea, but what is your motivation in defending the khan video library? People like Rubenstein (nor Khan for that matter) are blogging or making videos to get rich…unfortunately you are missing the point that education should not be about money, nor about performing skills, but rather about opening students eyes and improving their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

  15. Insightful Reader says:

    Pro vs. Kahn? That’s a really clever play on words, of course devoid of any sensitivity and maturity, but quite clever! I’m sure he didn’t get enough name-teasing as a kid 🙂

    As for your post, I find it (and you) overly critical.

    He didn’t want fame, as you do. He wanted to help children who needed a tutor. Perhaps if your focus was the same, you, sir, could have created your Rubinstein Academy much earlier.

    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      Well, ‘The Wrath Of Khan’ was already taken so that was the best pun I could come up with. I got teased about my name too, especially by former students. I’ve been ‘Mr. Frankenstein’ and even ‘Mr. Robitussin’.

      I have my own videos, which are not skills tutorials, but that demonstrate my favorite theorems from the history of math. Some have 3-d graphics and some took me several months to make, including an 8 part video series about how Newton proved that elliptical orbits imply the inverse square law. Those are the ones that I’m most proud of, and this skills tutorial that I made for this post is probably my worst video, but that was the best I could do with this limitation of teaching this topic.

      • shopgirl says:

        and how many people watch them? That should maybe give you a clue as to how much of a “pro” you are compared to Khan.

        I, like other posters, find your “critique” of Khan to be immature and childish. Why would you criticize someone who is obviously filled a need people have?

      • Gary Rubinstein says:

        I hope you don’t think that popularity always equates with quality. The movie ‘Titanic’ was, in my opinion, pretty bad despite it’s box office gross. My meager 50,000 views may or may not be good considering I was teaching very esoteric proofs from the history of math.

        My critique is more about Bill Gates than about Khan. Gates promoted Khan Academy and that is a big reason why it is so popular.

        Purple Math is much more useful but people, I guess, don’t want to read, they want to sit back and learn passively.

      • shopgirl says:

        But it’s not just the videos that are helping people, it is also the practice software his site offers.

        And to your point…how many people saw Titanic twice (I agree with you, Titanic sucked)? People are returning to Khan because they find it helpful.

        Are you saying these millions of people who use his site are too stupid to realize they are not being helped? If a student goes to his site and can’t add negative numbers…they watch his video and understand how to add negative numbers…they work out problems on his software and get 10 (or whatever the number is) correct in a row…they don’t really know how to add negative numbers?

        Again, I don’t understand why you are so hostile to someone who is clearly helping others. Why is he such a bad guy? I don’t get it. So you two have different teaching styles. Big deal. Why is one better over the other? And why is this a competition? Can’t you both be good teachers?

        The fact that you have to put someone else down in such a hostile manner in order to bring yourself up, tells me you don’t have much confidence in your own abilities. I haven’t seen Mr. Khan do that…which may be why his videos are more being used by more people. I don’t think he sees this as a competition (or from what little I’ve seen of his presentations..I could be wrong). His focus seems to be on the student and getting tools to the student to help the student learn. Not trying to run others down who have also put videos online for free for people to view.

      • James Tharpe says:

        > Gates promoted Khan Academy and that is a big reason why it is so popular.

        But you haven’t (at least, not in your article) considered *why* Bill Gates chose Khan Academy. Khan attained popularity on his own, Gates just amplified it. Khan was already innovating, Gates just supplied more resources.

        It’s well known that Gates likes objective data that enables him to make informed decisions. He doesn’t care much for subjective/qualitative analysis. Math videos from you and others may be highly regarded by other math teachers, but math teacher’s opinions are NOT the best measure of a video’s quality. Khan has data to show that his videos actually work for students, and this is one of the major reasons that Gates chose Khan Academy.

        Khan Academy has objective data from multiple sources and actively analyzes that data to make improvements. Do you?

      • Gary Rubinstein says:

        I don’t feel like I was being that hostile. All I said was that he was ‘OK’ and that his lessons were ‘adequate’. Those are neutral to positive assessments. I hadn’t heard of Khan until Gates declared that he was doing something revolutionary. His success is, in a big part, the result of Gates’ endorsement.

        I think that in the future, others, maybe including me, will be able to contribute to Khan Academy and then the quality will improve.

        Again, I don’t think his lessons are horrible. Just overrated. I don’t ‘hate’ Khan. I am a bit jealous, I’ll admit, but my post is about the quality, more than anything.

        I also mention Vi Hart as a creator of videos I think are incredible, so I’m able to give a compliment when I think one is due.

  16. openmath says:

    I don’t understand why you are so critical of Khan. Your video begins almost immediately with what I would consider a teaching mistake when you ask students to find the average of the the numbers by “dividing by 5” instead of “the number of values.” You state there is no wrong answer to the approximation, but there are clearly values which could not be the average, -1 for instance, so pointing out that the average must be inclusive to the values is a small but important detail.

    With respect to numbers not dividing evenly, teachers and principals too need to get over it. I don’t know how many times I’ve had some student say “you can’t do that” when faced with a problem that was not evenly divisible. e.g. Q: What is 7 divided by 3? A: You can’t do that. The absurd focus on “simple” solutions is training kids to think of fractions and decimals as hard when the process of finding the solution is no more difficult than for whole quotients. It also conditions them to see decimals as something other than numbers

    The term “deep thinking” is thrown about, but what does it mean? Khan repeatedly mentioned that an averages is a way to represent a set of numbers as a single number, a concept I did not get from yours. Is that what you mean by deep thinking? Coming up with the concept of weighted averages — is that deep thinking? Finding averages in multiple dimensions?

    Hart’s video is certainly more entertaining, but would I come away from it with an appreciation for the difference between 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + 1/4 + …. vs. 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + .., and do I just have to take it on faith that any three (non-colinear) points in the plane define a (only one?) circle?

    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      My video is by no means perfect. My point is that I think Khan is overrated. I’ve trained many math teachers and I believe I know the difference between a well constructed lesson and one that is ‘winged.’ I encourage you to watch some of the videos I’ve made that I’m really proud of, like my ten minute video about how Archimedes worked out the formula for the volume of a sphere. Making that video with 3-d graphics was a true labor of love for me. I’d be interested in what you thought of that one. (Also see my explanation of Newton’s Principia. As you seem to be pretty good at math, I think you would be impressed by that one, too).

      I’m not particularly proud of this averages lesson. I just think that it shows how easily one can be made that, to me, is better than Khans and how ironic is it that will all the resources he has, he doesn’t improve the videos.

      • openmath says:

        Would love to. Where are the links? Khan has done something that you have not and that is to organize thousands of lesson making them easy to follow in different sequences or to find individually. If you want to compete with Khan you need to make your videos accessible.

        I did watch your teaching in 2005 video and would comment that if I were in your class I would have preferred you to read both questions, repeat the answers and draw connections, to the Pythagorean Theorem, say, just as a reminder to look for and question how one piece of information is related to another that may at first seem unrelated.

        You made two questionable comments — proving the crease is the perpendicular bisector is essential to demonstrate that the triangle is isosceles and trivial to show. A fold in half halves both the distance and the angle. This is probably something like Lesson I in Euclid. You might as well have skipped the “proof” if you were going to make such a basic assumption. You also dismissed finding the minimum of the parabola. Did any students draw the parabola through the focus?

        I’ll add a 2 and a half. In addition to skipping basics, you made a “math is hard” type statement when faced with the question how do you know it is the perpendicular bisector. Going into this lesson unprepared to answer that question to me seems to be “winging” it or having low expectations of your students

        I am honestly interested in what teachers mean when they say “deep thinking”

        It is easy to find “mistakes.” If making videos is what you want to do, make videos. If competing with Salman Khan is what you want, make lots of videos. Finding a teacher, who if not perfect, has managed to cause a shift in thinking about what many would say is a broken system is in my opinion a very good thing. If as a teacher you think he is a novice, you should check out this video:

      • Phaus says:

        Why haven’t you made thousands of tutorials? Is it because it takes years? Why hold Khan to a higher standard then yourself?

  17. James Tharpe says:

    @Gary – Khan improves his videos all the time. He fixes mistakes, increases the screen resolution, introduces better examples, etc..

    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      @James – Could you give an example of some Khan videos that you consider to be of high quality? I’m willing to take a look at those. The ones I’ve seen so far have been lacking. Most math teachers would agree, I think.

      What is good is the organization of the videos, the completeness of them, and some of the new assessment tools.

      Name some of his videos that you think really nail the topic.

      • James Tharpe says:

        I found this video pretty helpful in my own studies:

        Also, most of his videos containing proofs are pretty good. This is something that, in my personal experience, most math teachers leave out. When I was in school, we were expected to memorize rather than understand. Khan typically (though not always) does a good job enabling students to truly understand math at a conceptual level.

        It’s always going to be possible to critique the finer points of someone’s technique. I’ll bet “most math teachers would agree” that most math teachers are “lacking” in some way.

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  20. Cal says:

    There’s no question Khan is overrated, and there’s no question that people who seize on his work aren’t so much enamored with the explanations (which most of his journalist proponents don’t understand) as they are with the idea that we can decouple students from their supposedly horrible teachers.

    • James Tharpe says:

      It’s not that he decouples students from their teachers. In fact, I’d say he does the opposite – he enables real discussion and more depth of study in the classroom. The enamor comes from decoupling students from a system that isn’t particularly effective, and allowing them to succeed where they previously weren’t succeeding (or to improve upon their existing success).

      • Cal says:

        “In fact, I’d say he does the opposite – he enables real discussion and more depth of study in the classroom.”

        I don’t see any evidence of that. But really, the problem is that anyone who thinks a low ability kid can make sense of these videos has no idea what “low ability” means.

      • openmath says:

        Why do you pick “low ability” kids to measure the quality of Khan Academy. There are many high ability students with either poorly qualified or poorly motivated teachers. Khan offers them an avenue for success. There are students with both highly qualified and motivated teachers, but for whatever reason are not the best fit for the student, again Khan offers an alternative. Nowhere have I heard that Khan is *the* solution to every educational problem, but frequently I read that solutions like Khan or charters are wrong because they do not work for everyone or they do not work for this group, etc. but for some reason I have never heard anyone look at a top performing inner city charter school, say, and ask “How do we emulate across the city?” Actually, I’ll take that back. I know of at least one city where there is at least one city board member who believes the work of Geoffrey Canada is worth examining to see how it can be made to work across a city. The reception seems lukewarm at best.

  21. The Stuy Sub says:

    I would like you to know that this was my first experience with Khan academy. It was in the beginning of this year. This occurred at a well regarded DOE NYC school. My son is in fourth grade. He has a brand new teacher this year who, from what I have been able to ascertain, has never been in th classroom. She is a career changer and is very adept at creating websites and using social media. This is a good thing until it starts to overtake the class. I found that she was using the Khan videos to teach the kids the math lessons because she did not really know how to go about teaching the concepts. My son would come home and tell me that they watched a video on reducing fractions and a video on adding fractions. Homework assignments consisted of watching videos. I, then, discovered, that my son who never had any trouble with math is now failing exams for he really did not understand the process of completing a fraction reduction problem. My problem with all of this is that I am sending my son to school supposedly to be taught my someone who is knowledgable about subject matter. He is coming home telling me that this has been outsourced to MR. Khan and he is not learning the material. I brought this up with the administration and this was stopped. But it gives a good view of the future for teaching. Anyone can be a teacher for teaching is really just disseminating information by blackberry. Ultimately, we will have to self-teach ourselves everything. or pay for a tutor. There will be no need for accountabilty for only the students will be left and have to be accountable for their lack of mastery.


  22. Sam says:

    I think it’s silly to think that videos are going to replace in-person instruction for most students. It doesn’t matter if it’s Khan Academy or Rubinstein Academy. These videos should not be used as the primary mode of instruction in the classroom or in the home.

    What these videos SHOULD be used for is reinforcement. Students can use them as a way to review what was learned in class, particularly if they begin their homework and realize, hey, I guess I really didn’t get / don’t remember what we talked about today. The benefit of these videos is that students can watch them at home, and students can pause, rewind, and rewatch several times.

    • James Tharpe says:

      > review what was learned in class

      This assumes something was learned in class. Many of Khan’s students don’t have a “class” to learn in.

      • openmath says:

        @Sam, ignore for a moment that some of Khan’s students may live in places where they do not have regular access to schools or to teachers. Now imagine a precocious middle school student in a good American middle school. The odds are very low that this student will have a “class” to learn linear algebra or calculus. The odds are even worse if that student is in a bad school, and the odds of finding a teacher diminish with parental income for a number of reasons. Proclaiming how these videos should or should not be used requires you to make assumptions about others you simply are in no position to make.

      • Sam says:

        Sorry! I should have made myself more clear. I was talking about teachers who use Khan videos with their students, not individual students who decide to watch videos on their own to learn.

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  24. JBL says:

    Hi Gary,
    I had the same sort of experience that you did when I watched my first Khan Academy video. He’s perfectly competent, but there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about him. When MIT OpenCourseWare got a grant to produce some complete course materials (link: ), we considered doing it with a tablet, but we decided to do it with instructor and blackboard instead (representative examples under the tab “Recitation videos” here: ). I think the results are quite good (though there are definitely some I’d like the opportunity to reshoot). Though I gather that the fact that it’s always him has something to do with the appeal, it seems like Khan would be better off spending some of Gates’ money to hire a few professionals to do the production.

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  26. markadoc says:

    Obviously Khan thought of it first, you didn’t.
    Obviously Khan stimulated you to think through the problem for a change.
    And obviously you’ve still not overcome your own jealousy that someone else – without specific ‘training’ – hit the ball out of the park before you were even aware there was a game going on.
    So sorry,

    • JBL says:

      The quality of Gary-bashing on this thread is so low, it’s just embarrassing. Both because it involves utterly mindless misreading of Gary (is there any indication anywhere that he wants to be Khan instead of teaching high school? I don’t see it) combined with idiotic nonsequiturs. In this particular instance, markadoc gives us the bizarre claim that Khan “did it first” — but of course this is total b.s. MIT (Khan’s alma) had been putting lectures on the web for free for several years before Khan began, and Khan didn’t start with the vision of doing mass education, he started by tutoring some of his cousins or something. It’s a genuinely interesting historical question why Khan became the big thing here, especially since his materials are of only middling quality, but the sort of willful stupidity on display here doesn’t address it at all.

  27. Takashi says:


    Nice try, but I like Sal Khan’s lecture better. Here is why.

    1. He is teaching the concept of average number. Why should you use 2 digit numbers if you can use simpler 1 digit numbers to teach the concept?

    2. I’ve found Sal’s handwriting much easier to read – bigger numbers and cleaner shapes. Your green circle for pen is too distracting. I can’t see what you are writing sometimes.

    3. Sal’s video is much shorter (8 min.) than your video (13 min.) We do not have long attention spans. This is something people misunderstand about why students can’t sit through to learn in traditional one-hour class. Keep only one take-home message in one video.

    I don’t think that Khan Academy works in any subject, but it can be a good supplemental tool in many courses.

    Another thing people underestimate is the teacher’s charisma or ability to connect with his/her students. Sal Khan has it and I feel his joy and passion for teaching.

    I admire your efforts, though. Keep trying.

    • Gary Rubinstein says:


      Sorry you didn’t like my video. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that it is sometimes hard to gauge (not just for you, but for me too) how the video would be perceived by someone who doesn’t already know the topic. I feel that with mine a student can actually get a feel for some of the key issues and, with the buttons, get a chance to figure out some of the key moments themselves.

      I admitted that I didn’t think that mine was so great either, just better than Khans. If you like his, that’s fine too. Like with art, there isn’t necessarily a ‘best.’

      I will be coming out with a new one based on a very bad series of Khan videos on an important topic which I recently watched. Stay tuned, and let me know what you think of that one when I post it. As a 20 year teacher, I can take criticism.


      • Takashi says:

        I replied my response to Gary by email, but thought I should post it here (with some modifications from the original text). Takashi

        Dear Gary,

        It’s not that I don’t like your video. I like it too. But, I disagree that Khan Academy teaching is not good. If it is, why do so many people watch their videos?

        Sure, there are some factual errors in Sal’s videos. But, he also provides means for feedback from readers, and tries to correct the mistakes in his amendment videos. He wants to be a solution, and tries to help struggling students as well as providing tools for teachers. There is no reason to put him down.

        I saw Eric Lander’s neuroscience lecture yesterday in the MIT’s OpenCourseWare website. He was making a mistake telling students that there are 10^12 neurons in the brain. This is simply wrong. The actual number is 10 times smaller and not all cells are neurons (many are glial cells). Do I want to criticize him? No. He is a leading scientist in genetics and molecular biology. He was simply teaching the field he is not so familiar with, and given an indirect way to deduce the number of neurons, his number is not far off. I respect his courage to provide the teaching materials to the public for free. Students will eventually figure out these factual discrepancies or errors if they keep studying. That’s the part of how we learn – think critically and not merely believe everything teacher said is correct.

        This is the beginning of the internet-based teaching era, but online teaching will not replace teachers like you. We need people like you more than before. Let’s try to build up rather than tear down.

        I am a teacher myself for more than 30 years if I include my graduate student TA period. Although I teach neuroscience at college level, I know the reality in K-12 public schools since my wife is a speech pathologist who works in an elementary school. I hear a lot about the problems, and worry about the state of education in this country. I think we need some innovative solutions in several areas of teaching.

        I hope you don’t take my comments as criticisms since I have no intention of putting down your effort. In fact, I commend your efforts to open up this type of discussion. You are doing much more than what I am doing.

        Keep up the good work, and let me know when you make your next video.

        Have a great day,


  28. Jen says:

    I actually really like the roughness of Khan’s videos. For one thing, he’s stated multiple times that most of the problems he works are not ones he’s seen before, and that he doesn’t do a lot of prep. I’ve seen lots of educators criticizing that as low quality/unprofessional/confusing/etc. because his delivery isn’t very polished, but I find that it helps me follow the process better than if a teacher is presenting a lesson that they’ve spent a lot of time prepping for or editing.

    Also, I found his video visually a lot more appealing. For one thing, I just personally prefer the dark background to a very great degree–it makes the writing stand out, whereas a lot of black text floating on a white background just totally disengages my brain for some reason. Also, I really like seeing him write as he goes, rather than just having the text sort of pop on screen as it did in the beginning of your video. Again, much easier to follow and engage with–the text suddenly appearing throws me out of the experience and makes it feel a lot more passive.

    I don’t think Khan’s videos are perfect by any means, but I actually find them really engaging and intuitive in a way that I don’t usually feel about instructional videos, which tend to zone me out. Anyway, I think there’s something to his stuff, even if it’s unpolished and pedagogically imperfect. It’s more like a friend or an older student explaining something to you; they may not have the same training or experience as a teacher, and they may explain things in kind of a roundabout way, but sometimes they’re easier to engage with. I’ve been using his stuff to teach myself calculus (I’m in my 20s and have a B.A., but I was a liberal arts major and avoided math like the plague), so I’ve watched videos both on stuff I’m familiar with, like algebra, and stuff I’ve never tried before, like differential equations, and I’ve found it remarkably helpful in correcting my inadequate math background.

    • Takashi says:


      I agree with you. I like Sal’s drawing and writing. He also changes colors for different items or mathematical parameters. That makes it clearer than simply using black or white pencil color.

      I also agree that Sal is more engaging than many other professional teachers. The best thing about his teaching is that he shows the attitude of “Let’s learn together” rather than “Let me teach you.” I think his humility is very appealing to regular people.

      Let’s try to learn from him.

  29. Pingback: The Primary Colors of Friday Ed Bites - the weighted pupil

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