In Spirit of Non Sibi, Math Department to Partner with Khan Academy

Bill Scott, Instructor and Chair in Math, announced on Thursday that Andover’s Math Department will partner with Khan Academy to create a calculus course for the website, offering free video lessons and practice problems online.

“We are a private school with a public purpose. It has been in our charter forever, and if we are truly a private school with a public purpose, then it is our duty to go beyond the walls of our school,” said Scott. “The opportunity through the platform of Khan Academy to provide our calculus curriculum outside the ‘Andover Bubble,’ would allow us to hit the world for free, which is very much in the spirit of Non Sibi.”

This partnership has been in the works since last Spring after Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, visited campus. Following the visit, the math department began to write calculus problems, 150 of which were uploaded to Khan Academy this summer as a trial.

The tremendous success of those initial trial problems are the foundation for this new partnership, as Andover’s calculus content got hundreds of thousands of views without any promotion at all. Although August is Khan Academy website’s slowest month, the problems got 120,000 hits from 12,000 people. Statistically speaking, this means that 12,000 unique visitors went online and tried 10 problems each, on average, according to Scott.

“We just put the problems online and collected data. I think that speaks for itself for how successful this partnership could be,” said Scott.

Andover’s calculus courses have long been a strength of the Math Department. This past year, 90 percent of Andover’s BC Calculus students received a 5, the highest grade possible, on the AP Exam. Nationally, that percentage stands at around 45 percent of all students who take the AP.

Nevertheless, the success of the summer trial might promise greater benefits for the Math Department, as Khan Academy’s high traffic can allow for more in-depth analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the department’s curriculum.

“Khan Academy just provides such a wonderful platform for constructive analysis,” said Scott. “The metrics are incredibly helpful.”

Scott also hopes that the Math Department might be able to eventually get rid of textbooks and put all of its resources online.

This past summer, Scott and Chris Odden, Instructor in Math, traveled to California to attend a teacher workshop with Khan Academy. There they held meetings to discuss a partnership in which Andover would provide calculus content.

Although Scott was enthusiastic about the idea, he said Andover would collaborate only under the condition that there was a consensus within the Math Department itself, since the faculty would be creating the actual calculus content.

This collaboration is one of many other partnerships that may extend the reach and influence of Andover’s calculus content beyond campus. Allan Scheier, former Visiting Scholar in Mathematics from Lawrence High School, is teaching BC Calculus at Lawrence High School, and Andover is supporting his efforts to try to provide a Distance Learning Scholar Program, according to Scott.

“Our goal is to provide both graduates of the Mathematics and Science for Minority Students (MS2) Program and also students of Lawrence High School with an online calculus option during their Senior year of high school at their home schools,” said Scott.