Monday, June 18, 2012

Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000

Welcome to our first episode. Recently, in the halls of School University, some teachers attempted some selfdirected professional development, encouraged by their principal and given hope by Sal Khan, a man described as "Bill Gate's favorite teacher" (from a TED endorsement), "very popular," "extremely popular," "an educational revolutionary," and being like "like a nerdy, South Asian-American Seinfeld." (I'm not making any of those up. The last is from Wired.)

Here's what happened.





So, obviously, as comedy improv actors we're a couple of math teachers.

We're very interested in your comments. What do you think of this video? Of the teaching? What did we miss in our commentary? 

Dave was the instigator here, but is too smart to put it up at Deltascape.

57 comments:

  1. This is horrifying. But wow, what a fantastic idea for teaching... have your students create Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000 videos of their own. Or really, the ultimate way to use Khan Academy in the classroom may be to have students figure out what they would need to improve in the videos in order to help learners actually *understand* what was happening, not just watch (and listen) to applications of nearly-arbitrary rules.

    I love the concept of your MTT2K. Please do lots. But need better audio or transcripts... I really wanted to hear what you were saying, and maybe insert more pauses. Seriously, guys, watching felt like the start of an amazing learning opportunity.

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  2. I am SO jealous that I didn't think of this first. Brilliant!
    Too bad that the next 100 episodes will be the same. Thank you both for doing that which...no one else should have to do.

    Awaiting the response from KA: "Well, this was an older video - you haven't seen our NEW stuff!"

    One last question: where's Tom Servo?

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  3. I'm going to admit that I couldn't watch it all the way through. I tried my best. :(

    Here's a question - has anyone actually taken the time to evaluate all of the videos with as much detail as you have done? Could we compare the error rate with the standard error rate in the classroom?

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    1. I can't say about a complete review, but I find it interesting that a day later, Khan uploaded a reworked video of the same topic

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47wjId9k2Hs&feature=plcp

      Delete
  4. Thank you so much!

    This video will be very helpful as I try to explain to people that Khan is actually not... the second coming.

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  5. It seemed to me like quantity over quality. I don't understand why one would put up an *teaching* video with errors, unless one was simply too lazy to check it. If you wanted to point out common errors in arithmetic, one would do that along the way, not commit those errors and then have to backtrack. It just seems very sloppy to me.

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  6. I love it. At 5:40, Kahn says that -4 x 3 = -12 because it's essentially saying it's -4 times itself 3 times. Sorry Kahn, the result of what you said would be -64. Sigh!
    Sorry Bill Gates, I disagree with your assessment of Kahn.
    I hope Kahn academy is a one-minute wonder. Let's find real math rock stars. They exist!
    Dan Meyer. Frank Noschese. Shawn Cornally. Fawn Nguyen. Etc.

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    Replies
    1. I wish on the 1-minute wonder. Khan's stuff has been kicking' around on the internet for approx.. 6 years (by my memory)

      Delete
  7. What I take away is that there is value in mistakes. Mr.Stadel's point that, "At 5:40, Kahn says that -4 x 3 = -12 because it's essentially saying it's -4 times itself 3 times"...this is valuable. Of course Khan knows that -4^3 is -64, it's just a mistake. The guy went to MIT after all. So I appreciate the analysis of the mistakes in this video more than I appreciate the finger pointing. If a student makes a similar error in class we would all take advantage of that moment. We wouldn't highlight 'negatively' or put him down. That being said, I haven't figured out how to use Khan Academy as a resource in my class. Nor am I working on it.

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  8. "That explains Windows." You guys are my new heroes. BEST EVER AWARD NOMINEE

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  9. Love this! "Transitive Property"?!?!?! Hahahahahahahaha! Really, kids need a VIDEO of some "rules", then they'll perform on the standardized test? They've "learned" it? They "know" it? They can "replicate" it? They can "teach" it to someone else? This is "revolutionary"? I agree with the comment that said Khan is getting the props because he has made them free. Yes, stupid bad math, for free, is a very good thing... and warrants a philanthropy high five...hundred...million...

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  10. You've criticized this particular Khan Academy video. Ok. But can you please also create a competing video that in your opinion would have been better? I'd like to see that one as a reference so I have something to compare with. Oh, and please upgrade your microphones. I couldn't hear some of the things you were saying.

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    1. "can you please also create a competing video that in your opinion would have been better?"

      I think one of the points of this exercise may be that using a video to teach this concept - ANY video - is not a great idea.

      I don't think the point is to look at this video and claim that another teacher could create a better one that would address all student misconceptions.

      Delete
  11. Funny and unsurprising that the one reply thus far that comes up with one of the classic Khan Academy defenses (Can you do a better one?) is anonymous. I've had that query sent to me directly and to my blog by Khan Defenders every time I post a piece critical of King Sal's work or the cult of promotion that's grown up around him and it.

    As someone who started out his career in literary criticism and theory, I had to remind myself that there are people who've never learned that it isn't necessary to be able to do better (or be interested in doing better) in order to level insightful and accurate criticism (positive, negative, or otherwise) about something. When I look at garbage like THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY and point out its many ills, I'm not expected to produce a better novel with a similar theme, locale, etc.: it suffices to analyze it effectively and truly (with a small 't').

    That said, I'm begging Dave and John to put up a transcript of this video. The sound quality, as has been mentioned by Dan Meyer, is severely wanting, and for old guys like me, it's hard to get through it as a result. You'd be doing everyone (even YOUR critics) a huge favor by batting out a 'script.'

    Naturally, I'm going to link to this on my blog, which has been dormant since my last criticism of KA in February, "Khan, you bloodsucker! KHAAAAAN! (More musings on the Khan Academy)": . Perhaps coincidentally, despite a lot of water under the bridge since that post, I received a personal note from someone who didn't care for what I wrote, followed almost immediately by three insulting comments on the blog itself which I rejected as spam, particularly since each was both anonymous and vapid.

    Thanks for doing this, fellas. I hope it will start a trend. And maybe the MST3K folks will get a kick out of it. They'll be performing in Ann Arbor in early July as "Cinematic Titanic"

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    1. Yes, it's ok to criticise without being able to create, but not if that criticism comes across as a mean-spirited put-down of someone's genuine attempt to help other people. This then becomes the equivalent of blowing raspberries.

      Not everyone has access to a brilliant teacher.

      I do believe that this video point outs the problems with Khan's approach and delivery in an amusing way, but some of the comments here are just nasty.

      Delete
    2. In this case, "put up a better video" is a perfectly valid challenge.

      It's one that the criticizers have already accepted, haven't they?

      Delete
  12. Tried to include this link to my blog post: http://bit.ly/wHVqlI

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  13. Like David Wees, I still had 5 minutes left to watch but had to stop. (Sorry, I just ate.) I was always impressed with the sheer number of videos KA has while wondering if Khan himself had previewed and approved them all.

    Thank you for your response to @Anonymous. I used to think that a Khan video is better than nothing, but this video is borderline criminal. It is trash.

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  14. I loved this video! I am sharing it with a select few of my educator friends who will find the humor in this! I loved the Mystery Science from back in the day. I enjoy watching people watching movies making rational sense out of them. I did also really enjoy the comment about windows!

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  15. What I appreciated about this whole exchange is that there are no longer "experts" out there who everyone looks to. Everything posted on the web is up to public scrutiny. It's the scrutiny that helps keeps the posts honest and of high quality.

    I watched both videos. I was horrified by the first one, and it reinforced my opinion that Khan Academy is overrated. I watched the second one and it was greatly improved by using basic properties of mathematics and reasoning to come to a conclusion. The discussion was a good model of how we want students to approach mathematics. I think the drawing of the philosopher and the story surrounding the issue was going a little over the top, but it wasn't too distracting.

    What I take away from this situation is that, had someone not exposed the first video, it would still be there. Students would be learning that, as someone alluded to in another comment, math is just a series of random rules...and just memorize them. (Yours is not to reason why...just invert and multiply!)

    So my point is, how many other really bad videos are there in the millions that are supposedly on the site? Where is the quality control? It seems that WE are it!

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  16. This sounds like a quality control issue. When you put out thousands of "educational videos" you must do what any good curriculum developers should do---have a review and revise cycle by experts. This method of make and post works fine except when you know you are impacting the millions of users that don't know you made a mistake!! Use an engineering design cycle to develop educational materials that you hope will be used to help students develop knowledge and skills and you can avoid errors like this!

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  17. You're interested in my comments. Here it is. This is an incredibly stupid way to criticize Kahn academy.

    Mystery Science Theater was created to make fun of **really bad** campy movies. Just by choosing this format you're making an implicit, and totally inaccurate, judgement of Kahn's work. Kahn's lectures, right now, are better than most of the flesh and blood math and science lectures being presented to American students right now. He's refining them, so they're going to get even better. But they're not hacked-together campy laughfests.

    Why not offer mature, professional critcism? You know you're not very funny here - what you might not be aware of is that you come across as petty and jealous. (The rest of us stopped hating Bill Gates like 10 years ago.)

    Seriously, you guys come across as overgrown teenagers. I doubt you're that way in real life. Someone should have given you this feedback before you even put this video up.

    By all means, offer criticism to Kahn, and to anyone else claiming to "save education in one fell swoop". No-one really doubts that Kahn has been overpraised at this point, Kahn included. But this is just immature, and it's doing more to harm your professional reputations than it is to advance American education.

    Switch to a serious format. Now. Don't polarize this issue.

    I'm Anonymous here, but you can email/spam me at

    james dot notlarry dot mcmurtry at gmail dot com

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    1. I agree, my first response was attacking the both of you, but that is not helpful in the debate. I almost stooped to the level you presented here, but I actually thought about it before I published it.

      Delete
  18. Our primary purpose with this video was to get a conversation started. We realized that the satire would put some people off but many teachers have tried to engage Khan Academy in a reasonable discussion and present their case to the media about issues with this approach with little to show for it. Now that the conversation has started and Sal himself has said he is listening and looks forward to more critiques, the time has come to raise the level of the discussion. That is why several bloggers have suggested 101 Critiques and Lessons.https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AtRjKUXTP8SadGRiODVPOVZtWWVRSFJuTzctXzBvaUE

    We are looking for at least 101 bloggers to offer a video critique of a Khan Academy video and then share an alternative lesson on that concept. The goal is for all the participants to post the critiques and lessons on August 14th (the day before the deadline for the MTT2K prize). Perhaps the sheer volume of resources will convince the media to acknowledge that while Sal Khan's approach has it's place, he could still learn something from teachers.

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  19. A good beginning is half the battle won. I doubt satire is the best way to start a constructive conversation. You have made some valuable comments, but they also kind of left people (non-educators especially) hanging: 'different signs and different numbers' - what's the implication of that? For those who don't understand pedagogy, the message is kind of lost. If we end up having another 101 videos steeped with sarcasm, would you say that you have been successful in converting non-believers?
    I would suggest that you do a more elaborate work (now that you have gotten the conversation started) of explaining each and every critique you made in the video, the same way you would do profession development if you were a math coach and Sal is a hardworking teacher trying to help his students. You probably can get more mileage this way.

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  20. Given the difficulty of hearing parts, the impact of the video shows it is a brilliant idea. I would suggest redoing the video or doing another Khan video but using personal microphones. Others may have better suggestions on that problem.

    I do not agree with any of the attacks saying this is too snarky or not professional. Math teachers are human too. There are a limited number of art forms and the one appropriate to Khan Academy type phenomenons is snarky attacks. In fact, this is not snarky enough.

    Given how hard it is to make any public criticism in a field like teaching, this very limited one of Khan Academy shows that there must be a widespread frustration with the quality of these videos and their actual value. This has finally reached the point of producing this expose.

    The teaching of sign rules in multiplication is a good area to focus attention. I have added a new way to teach this using recursion at my blog.

    http://newmathdoneright.com/2012/06/29/multiplication-of-negative-numbers-recursive-continuation/

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  21. In order understand multiplication of negative numbers, you need to understand multiplication (that it is not just repeated addition, but scaling) and negative numbers. But I digress here..
    What I am focusing on, is not what you say, but how you say it. It's such a pity that great ideas from both sides are lost because of bad communication. We are all human, but that should not be an excuse to allow emotions come into a serious, high-stakes discussion such as education. The purpose of communication is not to make the other party feel bad, but to make them realize that you are right. Is this how you would have taught your students, by appearing like a smart aleck?

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    1. Thanks Shannon. Very much agree. And for the initiated, can you explain or point to a resource for this notion of "scaling"? I always thought multiplication was just shorthand addition. please tell me more.

      Delete
    2. For integers, multiplication is most commonly thought of as repeated addition. For reals, you must introduce a thought of scaling. What is 4/3 times of 25? Well, to geometrically interpret this it is most convenient to scale 25 up by three, and then divide this line segment into thirds. A very similar argument can be made using addition, however this becomes tedious and inelegant. By introducing the notion of scaling for multiplication you may streamline an argument without loss of rigor, thereby making it more elegant. What about for squaring, which is repeated multiplication? It's easiest to go with the scaling concept. You are taking a line of length "n" and scaling it at a right angle to itself to length "n", thereby making a square with the same with area "n^2". You can make an argument about what squaring mean for addition, but you would be getting away from what is means. When Pythagoras spoke of square numbers, he was taking about the numbers associated with squares of a certain length. At any rate, I hope that clarifies more than you wanted clarified.

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    3. Sorry, scale up by four, then divide by three. I apologize for the laziness!

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    4. You don't need scaling. Repeated addition works fine. If you think of a segment of length 4/3 on a number line, the result is 25 of them. It works for reals as well.

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    5. So what is sqrt(2) x pi?

      Delete
  22. All I can encourage from this idea is its corrective intent but the way you are doing it doesn't inspire a remodeling...instead it feels just like another way to promote self-centered thoughts and apathy towards others.

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  23. Wahhhhh! The mean professors are making fun of God! How dare they!!! And they're using - GASP! - satire and parody! And they're implying that KA videos are. . . like bad movies: thrown together with no thought to cohesion, aesthetics, sense-making, audience, etc.

    It's not like Sal Khan brought it on himself. 'Cause when Bill Gates called him "the best teacher I've ever seen" and the WSJ practically anointed him as the Messiah of education, Sal modestly refused such accolades, right?

    Sorry, but Sal's a pompous ass, on my view, and he's really got this coming. It's not the cheesy production values: it's the shallowness of what he has to say and his promotion (willful or not) of the worst notions of what mathematics is about that already have permeated our country.

    I keep reading how great it is that Sal Khan has provided this free (!!!) resource for kids. And how many bad teachers there are out there in US mathematics classrooms (a charge with which I happen to agree, but probably not for identical reasons). And so the "solution" to that is to have some bad videos that kids can watch repeatedly until they "get it." My question is, "Get WHAT?" If mathematics were about procedures executed without thought, then KA is no worse than what's been available in classrooms for more than a century. But that's not what mathematics is, it's not what doing mathematics means, and thus KA simply reinforces our national ignorance. This makes him the best teacher, the best math teacher, an innovator, and a messiah? I don't think so.

    Here's three cheers to our intrepid parodist/critics. They've accomplished exactly what they set out to do: get the conversation started. If that harelips all the Khan devotees out there, well, that's what you get for worshiping false idols.

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  24. It is amazing to see some jealousy here from teachers (video and number of comments). If your methods are not earning your praise and accolade, defame others (KA). Is that what we are seeing here? Grow up.

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  25. It's amazing that Khan is teaching basic math for practical use in the basic math section...much like teachers do. No, instead he should try to teaching those with a second grade math education number theory! We should be teaching second graders WHY exactly division by a negative number leads to a negative, and why it switched inequalities. Forget that would need a grasp of first order logic before they can appreciate the later. Let's completely forget that math, at its earliest stages, it a practical science. Instead let's nit-pick words rather than ideas. I apologize for my sarcasm, gentlemen, but truly you are being petty. Khan does a wonderful job at making math easy and transparent. Your style of nitpicking could be applied to Richard Feynman as well, and be equally as valid. Those who understand logical implicature should pay attention to that last statement. Let those who do understand math teach it. For those who are told in grade school that they are "good at math" and find out that they, in fact, have no hand for proof-writing, they can get their Phd's in astrophysics. All the more pure maths for me.

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    1. The sentence "Forget that would need a grasp of first order logic before they can appreciate the later." was to be, in fact,
      "Forget that they would need a grasp of first order logic before they can appreciate the latter."
      Which is why I am not getting my doctorate in Language Arts.

      Delete
    2. The two math teachers critiquing the Khan video are making some very practical observations, and they're looking at the video from the point of view of experienced professionals who understand how children learn. What they are doing is not 'nitpicking'; instead, they are anticipating their students' thinking. In so doing they are exposing the Achille's heel of Khan's approach: his videos offer no real way to remedy critical student errors. Moreover, they work to foster misunderstanding through inconsistent and sometimes improper use of standard mathematical conventions.

      I for one am glad to see that there is some push-back against the KA's one size fits all approach. I think it's overdue, and I think it's essential to remember that teaching and learning are deeply social activities that cannot be mechanized.

      Delete
    3. From my understanding, all Khans videos are meant to be used in conjunction with a teacher. People seem to think he is pushing the use of his videos as a replacement for teachers, which he is not. I wish that I had been able to have such a resource available back when I took algebra and then calculus. It allows the student to review parts he or she missed or preview what the teacher will be teaching the next day.

      It isn't the holey grail for learning but it is a nice supplement. Books and teachers are nice, but lets face it computers are the future. Plus, you can't re listen to a teachers lecture, unless you tape it, which isn't typical, and often teachers prohibit it. Also, you often have only the book for the class you are taking, so if you are in a calculus course and need to brush up on something from last year or two years ago, you are not likely to have kept your old textbooks. With everything online it is easy to find the topic you are stuck on and replay it until you get it. I always dreaded having to go talk to the teacher if I didn't understand something. With this system, I wouldn't have had to. But again, if you are using these as part of a structured school course, you would have the option to talk to a teacher if you liked that better.

      As for mistakes you can find in his videos, most of my textbooks had supplements with corrections to it. No system is without issues that need to be addressed.

      Lastly, if teachers think that Khan, a non "educator" did a poor job in his implementation of the videos, then they should come up with their own set of videos. The writing is on the wall regarding the traditional methods of education. Computers and tablets are picking up steam in replacing books and if teachers are not embracing these new forms of education they will be left behind. Just putting the existing textbook in electronic form is not going to cut it.

      Delete
  26. I have done a Khan critique video using Popcorn Maker. This was based on Kate Nowak doing it first using Popcorn Maker. I did an analysis of one of Khan's put call parity videos, the clarification one. Khan in that video around 55 seconds in will use the same symbol S for the input variable, the Stock Price (or Share Price) and the strike price (usually K) of the two options (which have a common strike price K).

    Drag in to 55 seconds to see where Khan makes the error.

    http://maker.mozillapopcorn.org/4ff5ac4312adc1386700075e.html

    If you search on put call parity you find that there are many others doing it, all doing it better than Khan.

    Khan had a Harvard Business School MBA and worked at a hedge fund. He should have been able to do put call parity correctly. This is considered low tech for MBAs and hedge funds. Put call parity is something expected on the CFA exam or actuary exams. It is not advanced financial math.

    Khan has not done a Black Scholes video or Ito's Lemma despite requests for the former.

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  27. I have more info at a blog entry on this. This includes a link to Kate Nowak's blog entry on her use of Popcorn Maker. Her example is better for understanding its capabilities.

    http://newmathdoneright.com/2012/07/04/mtt2k-khan-academy-put-call-parity-video/

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  28. You can download the complete Khan video library from his webpage. They have software to do it. It takes 30 GB. You get .flv format. Many programs can convert this.

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  29. . thanks for sharing

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  30. Backpack TV video response to Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000 and in defense of Sal Khan and Khan Academy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fhZ8_Gge54

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  31. Nobody wants math explained...90% of the time when it is...you think....like WTF cares? So, I don't mind Kahn's way of teaching. It is to the point, and I get it. Plus he has such a robust deep voice.

    Your nasal voices drives me insane. And most of all...you guys doing these videos, just look like a bunch of jealous math nerds....you never change (imagine getting wedgie now).

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  32. So maybe if time was spent making interesting lessons students wouldn't need to use Khan Academy and they might remember lessons they are presented with. What many need to realize is that this is how students learn (anything they want). It would be easier for us as math teachers to change the way we teach, rather than trying to change how this generation learns. Many teach kids in a way to regurgitate a bunch of meaningless(to them) facts. Students have figured out a better way to learn what you want them to do. Now it is up to the teacher to teach them how to think, discover, create and express their knowledge. This means we need to get rid of standardized tests and start teaching again.

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  33. Brilliant. Thanks guys for shedding light on Khan Academy. I don't think he understands all the intricate teacher-student interactions that go on during a highly effective lesson. This is just another step on the road to privatizing education...

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  34. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. The purpose of this video appears to be to criticize technical errors in the teaching.
      That's a good idea and it appears that khan has found that helpful. In fact, Sal
      has always been open to criticism and I'm sure he is thankful for the free critique
      of his work.

      Personally one of the reasons I started home schooling is because teachers at
      our local schools seem obsessed with this exactness. I would make the claim
      that it is overrated. When I arrive at work each day, I am not spoon-fed
      a connect-the-dot problem that I can solve by following the obvious bread
      crumbs through a text book.

      I also contend that this need for exactness slows the learning process. I've
      personally found my kids learn faster when presented with inexactness and
      errors. I struggle, as Sal does, to cover a broad range
      of subjects without ANY formal training in education and I'm not convinced
      that is a problem.

      I don't claim to understand exactly what is going on with khan. However, I will
      claim that it is much more important to understand WHY he is affective than it
      is to find technical errors in the videos. Do you find any interest in that? If not,
      why not?

      There is clearly an undertone of jealousy here, or even fear

      Delete
  35. Khan is not the best just like many of us are. frustration arises when students students fails, and we tend to come up with alternative ways. Does that mean we are not passionate about what we do everyday? No. However, we can improve. This critique really discourages me to start a career in teaching. What am I going to do if I'm being judged like this? Instead, I want help.

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  36. Where are your videos so that Mr. Khan might critique you? You guys are just jealous.

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  37. As a parent, what I would love more than anything is for my kids to come home from school, having totally understood their math lessons, ready to apply it to their homework assignments. That happens sometimes. Sometimes it doesn't. I am one resource...sometimes I can help. Other kids in their classes are sometimes a resource. Various websites, including Khan Academy, are also resources. Altogether, along with the in-class instruction from the teacher, we can get through it.

    Sounds like Khan Academy is flawed sometimes and there should be a system of feedback. I'm sure not ready to throw it out though. It has helped us through years of math and has succeeded where my daughter's 3rd grade teacher (who told her in apparent frustration, "I just don't know how to teach you math") failed. She's in sixth grade now, and while she still doesn't love math, she is an A student. Her current teacher is mostly able to convey the concepts she needs to understand, but now and then, she needs a little help. I see Khan Academy as one more resource...one that is available 24/7, one that we can rewind (Yes, I am aware that you mocked that aspect but to those people who don't always absorb something the instant it is uttered, it can be pretty useful), one that can diffuse the often often charged situation between kids and parents when there is a roadblock in the homework assignment. Since the teacher typically doesn't want to make a house call at those moments, I'll take Khan Academy.

    Why would you look at Khan Academy as Either/Or? It's just one more tool in the tool box. Use it when and if you need it.

    Whatever you do...don't quit your day jobs to go into comedy.

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  38. Brilliant. These guys show exactly what experienced math teachers know about teaching the content (and what someone mindlessly showing examples to the camera doesn't have a clue about).

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  39. These two blokes are nothing more than a joke. Here is a guy who started out by donating his own time to try and help others to learn and you go out of your way to try and ridicule him? This is the reason our world is so messed up.

    Do you think that his videos would be so popular if EVERY teacher was as effective at explaining concepts like him?

    All the haters out there need to get a life, OR, get off your arses and donate your time to help Khan Academy further improve their resources.

    Ashamed to be human

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  40. Maybe if we would split the world in two we could have two perfect parts.
    O wait. That probably would need to be few billion parts. Darn, back to the drawing board.

    Humans? A intelligent species? ... (lol) Sure. Whatever makes you feel happy.

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