May 28, 2012

Donors Choose: “You Khan Do It – We Can Help”

I am huge fan of DonorsChoose.Org – I participate actively in choosing classrooms and projects to help.   I like math and science projects, but certainly have not confined myself to them.   However, since I am lucky enough to work for a company that actively supports teachers who support better educational experiences, I searched to choose this month’s Covalent-sponsored project in something that we at Covalent truly believe.

So, I am supporting a classroom using Khan Academy as part of its curriculum.  Teachers willing to embrace this new form of education deserve a helping hand.  As such Covalent is putting in the first part of the funding and I put in what was needed to finish the project, providing a digital projector to Mr. Thomas’ classroom.

The fact that Mrs. Thomas’ classroom is in Pennsylvania, where I get to call home on the weekends, is a nice benefit.  Helping kids closer home really makes this a little more personal for me.  A little more about Windber – where Mr. Thomas teaches – the median income for a family was $31,860 and about 12% of the families live below the poverty line.  In the shadow of mining towns, Windber kids could probably use a hand in developing skills that will help them expand their minds and their future incomes.

The challenge with math, I think, is the point at which we learn it and the context applied.  If the truth is known, I never much appreciated math in school.  The problems were generic and nothing I could relate to.  I did better at geometry and really well at physics.  Abstract, bleh.  Applied, yeah.  Vectoring a billiard ball or a ballerina’s jump – these would have made sense.  The concepts were too esoteric for me to see them applying to my life.  New versions of math education need to fix that, especially to entice younger generations.

It’s not just grammar school – it’s college too.  If I knew how important statistics and optimization theory would be to me now, I would have paid a lot more attention. (Who knew I’d develop an attachment to Monte Carlo simulation approaches to predict loyalty outcomes?)  I think math education needs to get practical and real world.  Far less “two trains” and far more “Angry Birds,” that ultimate approach to test and learn.

Khan Academy is grounded in concepts today’s kids understand.  And not just kids, but anyone looking for better understanding in the world. When I saw a fabulous Khan Academy session on whether owning a home is better than renting after the economic crisis, I wondered how many ADULTS could benefit from that one.

So, if you can get behind helping kids learn, there are lots more projects supporting the intersection of new types of learning and classrooms innovative to try them.  You can find them on here.

And I am grateful to my friends and colleagues at Covalent for demonstrating such a giving spirit – month after month.  –c-