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Khan Academy Teams Up With Boarding School on Calculus

By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

Khan Academy is expanding its highest-level math content through a new partnership with a prestigious New England boarding school. The plans, announced this week, involve Khan—a popular producer of free online content—and Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., working together to build a complete calculus program.

The project was sparked in part by significant gaps that math faculty at Phillips Academy noticed in the available calculus materials on the Khan Academy website, said Bill Scott, the chair of the school's math department, in a press release. It was those gaps that sparked Khan Academy founder Sal Khan to invite Phillips to help beef up the offerings through a new collaboration.

"In the coming year we are working with [the Phillips Academy's] math department to develop rigorous, adaptive exercises appropriate for a first-year course in calculus," said Khan in a press release. Members of the Phillips Academy math department have been finding, organizing, and uploading their favorite calculus problems directly to the Khan site since  last spring.

Scott said the work of him and his colleagues at the boarding school is focused on generating problem sets that encompass the full range of content necessary to teach calculus. Scott said he expects the work to be completed by fall 2014.

The goal for the offering is to provide a personalized and adaptive instructional program for students.

The partnership is being billed as mutually beneficial to Khan Academy and Phillips Academy. Writing the problems and their accompanying hints is like rehearsal for teaching each math lesson in class, said Matt Lisa, a Phillips math teacher, in the press release. 

At present, more than half of Phillips Academy's 30-person math department is working on the collaboration with Khan Academy and have posted more than 240 problems to the site. Scott said that based on the energy and excitement surrounding the project, he expects this number to grow.

The Khan Academy website provides a variety of materials across content areas, including free lectures and video tutorials in everything from mathematics to chemistry and economics. In May, we blogged here about a $2.2 million grant it received from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust to enhance and expand its coverage of content designed to align with the common-core math standards.

Khan Academy has drawn some criticism over the pedagogy in its math instructional videos. An Education Week Storify last year—"Anatomy of a Khan-troversy"—examined the emergence of the nonprofit organization and the growing debate over its approach.

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