Khan Academy: The future of education?

Khan Academy and its free online educational videos are moving into the classroom and across the world. Their goal: to revolutionize how we teach and learn.

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Sal Khan has tackled so many subjects that if you watched just one of his lectures a day it would take over eight years to cover it all.

[Khan (lesson montage): These are huge time scales...magnetic north is kind of the geographical...and let's say this is point x is equal to, basic introduction...light, if this does not blow your mind, then you have no emotion.]

Gupta: Did you ever think about putting yourself visually in the video?

Khan: Look, if there's a human face there, especially a funny looking human face, than it's actually hard to focus on the math.

[Khan: 4,000 is 2,000 times three is 6,000...]

Khan: I don't have to shave. I don't have to comb my hair. I just press record, make a video. There might be spinach in my teeth, who cares.

Gupta: The format is so simple. Why, does it appeal to so many people?

Khan: I've gotten a lot of feedback that is really does feel like I, I'm sitting next to the person and we're looking at the paper together.

[Khan: Let me take my trusty calculator out...]

Khan: I'm 95 percent of the time working through that problem real time. Or I'm thinking it through myself if I'm explaining something. And to see that it is actually sometimes a messy process. That, you know, it isn't always this clean process where you just know the answer. I think that's what people like, the kind of humanity there.

It all started in 2004 when Sal Khan was working as a hedge fund analyst in Boston and his cousin Nadia, a 7th grader in New Orleans, was struggling with algebra. He agreed to tutor her remotely and wound up posting lessons on YouTube. They helped Nadia, but then an odd thing happened - total strangers started using them too.

Khan: I started getting feedback like, "You know, my child has dyslexia, and this is the only thing that's getting into him." I got letters from people saying, "You know, we're praying for you and your family." That's pretty heady stuff. People don't say that type of stuff to a hedge fund analyst normally.

So in 2009, Khan quit his job and working from a desk set up in his closet devoted himself full time to Khan Academy. It's a non-profit with a simple but audacious mission: "to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere." If that goal sounds far-fetched for a guy working in his closet, consider what happened next.

[Bill Gates: There's a new website that I've just been using with my kids recently called Khan Academy. K-h-a-n. Just one guy doing some unbelievable 15-minute tutorials.]

[Khan: I was like those are just for Nadia, not Bill Gates. I have to look-- take a second look at some of this stuff.]

That's right, Bill Gates, one of the smartest and richest men in the world, was using Sal Khan's free videos to teach his own kids.

Khan: Two weeks later I got a call from Larry Cohen who is Bill Gates' chief of staff. And he says, you know, "You might have heard Bill's a fan." And I'm like shaking. I'm like, "Yeah, I heard." You know. And he was like, "If you have time, you know, love to fly you up to Seattle." And then I was looking at my calendar right then for the month. Completely blank. And I was like, "Yeah, you know, I think I could, you know, fly in, you know, between like laundry and a bath and meet with Bill."

That was just two years ago. Today, with the help of more than $15 million in funding, much of it from the Gates Foundation and Google, Khan has been able to hire with competitive salaries some of the most talented engineers and designers in the country. The Khan Academy office has the intense vibe of a Silicon Valley startup. The team is working to create software they hope will transform how math is taught in American classrooms.