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The Khan Academy: Reimagining Education

Sal Khan was working for a hedge fund when he found out that his 12-year-old cousin Nadia was struggling in math. They didn’t live in the same city, but that didn’t stop Khan from tutoring Nadia: Each day the two of them would use the phone and internet to work together on math problems. Soon, Nadia was excelling and Khan found himself tutoring dozens of his young cousins and their friends.

Fast forward eight years, and the Khan Academy has become a household name in education. Sal Khan has been recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”, he’s been featured on 60 Minutes, and he’s been shown on the cover of Forbes Magazine. Most recently, he was awarded the 19th Annual Heinz Award by the Heinz Family Foundation.

What separated Sal Khan from the other men and women in the world who help a younger family member with their school work? What was it that turned him from a hedge fund analyst to a household name in education and a math tutor to students around the world?

Sal Khan reimagined education.

The Khan Academy began with a seriously ambitious mission: to provide free, high-quality education to anyone, anywhere in the world. Khan’s ambition paid off — The Khan Academy now offers self-paced, guided learning experiences to more than 10 million unique visitors each month. The site has delivered more than 300 million exercises, and its users have completed more than 10 million exercises.

Students of the Khan Academy can get and give peer feedback, and they can build online portfolios of their work. When a student begins using the Khan Academy, he or she takes an online evaluation similar to a placement test. The results are used to deliver mathematics exercises that meet the students where they are.

And Khan Academy students aren’t all traditional students. In fact, only 10% of the site’s users engage with the site in a classroom setting, and Khan’s students have included thought leaders and industry leaders like Steve Jobs.

What would happen if more men and women thought about education like Khan does? At the very minimum, more kids like Khan’s young cousin would get one-on-one help with school work from a loving family member or friend. And at maximum? There’s no limit to what we can do for students when adults get involved in learning and education is taken out of the box.

How would you re-imagine education for your child? What would you do to help kids learn? How much time would you invest in a child’s tutoring? Imagine what a difference you can make.

Sal Khan is founder of the Khan Academy. He is a former hedge fund analyst who holds three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard. He is married with two children and lives in Mountain View, California. The Khan Academy supports and has aligned its mathematics content with the Common Core State Standards

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