Monday, July 2, 2012

Reboot the School

Salman Khan
Jamie Chung for TIME

Fifth-graders at eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, Calif., sit at their desks with netbooks. They're in the middle of a math lesson, listening as a teacher explains how to convert percentages to decimals. "If we get rid of the percent sign, we just have to move the decimal sign two places to the left," the instructor says. Pens scribble across notebooks.

Seven thousand miles away in Accra, Ghana, students at the African School for Excellence are studying logarithms. Their teacher is the same one firing off math tips in California--both groups of kids are learning by watching online videos. While the screen shows a march of equations and diagrams, the students never actually see the face of the lecturer. There's just a voice, deep, patient and unrehearsed--think NPR host crossed with Mister Rogers. His inflection rises at times to underscore a point or when he gets really excited. "Math is not just random things to memorize and regurgitate on a test next week," he says. "It's the purest way of describing the universe!"

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