Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A New Software That Personalizes Math Class

By Sean Scarpiello

In an attempt to help students learn math with ease, Salman Khan has come up with innovative software which personalizes math lessons for each individual students. In fact, Khan has made about 2,700 videos to teach math. All of these programs are available online for free. This upcoming semester, many schools are testing Khan’s new software in math classes. The highly personalized software is bound to teach student more efficiently. Already, a test run of his program was implemented on students who were falling behind in their expected math levels. The program helped a great deal with these students and they caught up quickly. Now, how will this new software fare at teaching students new math concepts and problems?

Math is one of the most difficult subjects to teach because everyone learns it at a different pace. This in mind, the math software was designed to take advantage of students’ weakness and hone in on those problems. If one student is having trouble with long division, but excels in exponents, the program is designed to give the student tips on what they are doing wrong. Also, less time will be spent on exponent problems and more time will be focused on long division. By recognizing the weaknesses of each individual student, the program increases the efficiency of learning in schools.

In a typical math class, some students will do well in some subjects, but struggle in others. This is difficult for teachers because many students have their own weaknesses. In traditional teaching methods, students who struggle in the areas where the majority of class excels are often overlooked. With this program, those students struggle with simpler concepts do not fall behind from the rest of the class because the teacher doesn’t recognize their difficulties.

In fact, the program incorporates a way for teachers to oversee their students’ progress. This allows them to see where the individual students in the class have weaknesses. Therefore, if a large group of students still do not understand the material after learning it through the program, the teacher can instruct the students personally. This aspect allows the teacher to not become useless in class. In certain math subjects, teachers are more effective in teaching than a computer. Therefore, teachers are not simply letting the computer program take over the math class, but teachers monitor the learning and can take action if there is a problem. By allowing teachers to look at where students are struggling, they diagnose individual problems in the class. Teachers are then able to see where stragglers in the class are having difficulty and teachers can react before these stragglers fall behind.

In the future, there will probably much more of this type of learning in classes. This individualized learning ensures that no students can fall behind in their studies. If this type of program can be made for a subject as difficult and as complex as math, there can definitely be other subjects, such as history, science, and English where this program would succeed as well. As the software is being implemented in schools soon, teachers will probably find some small problems to work out. This will eventually lead to newer editions of these types of learning software in the future, but for now this personalized software looks promising.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/technology/khan-academy-blends-its-youtube-approach-with-classrooms.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&emc=eta1

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