I spent the last 6 months personally completing all of the math courseware available via the Khan Academy. Because so many people have asked me about why and how I did it, I decided to write about ‘my journey to calculus’. I’ll start with an excerpt from the article, then, if you’d like to read more (20 pages total), you can download the rest from this link.
This is your brain on Khan
A Math MOOC for everyone
A story of Math Learning
Over 30 years ago, (as a teenager intrigued by the delight of geometry), I asked my math teacher a simple question, “What kind of career could I have if I studied math?” His answer stuns me to this day, “Oh honey, girls don’t do math.” Thinking he was an outlier, I got more data by asking my friends and family the same question. Unfortunately, all of their answers were basically the same, albeit, softened version of the original one, i.e. “that’s not for you” or “why would you want to do that?” and so on.
Fast forward to the present, although I had (unsurprisingly) not continued with any type of math studies beyond the first level algebra during high school, my mathematical curiosity led me down haphazard paths throughout my adult years. I picked up more math along the way, which served me well until…
In early 2013 I found myself up against a math challenge that I didn’t feel comfortable bluffing my way out of. I had acquired a new Big Data consulting client and part of my job was to be a ‘technical evangelist’ for their predictive analytics product. Their product was packed with features and I was eager to explore all of them, so that I could apply what had come to be a professional expertise for me – that is, explaining in simple terms how data technologies worked. I discovered a number of statistical features, and one in particular intrigued me – automatic calculation of z-score normalization. While I had heard of this term, I was wholly unfamiliar with what it really was. I wondered, ‘how will I learn this?’
I spent a few minutes searching for the term online and found some explanations, none of which made enough sense for me to put to any practical use. Next I decided to try another option- Khan Academy. When I looked there, I found that the topic ‘z-score normalization’ was part of the Khan Academy math courseware. I had, of course, heard of Khan Academy prior to this particular topic search. I had even signed up at the site and had casually watched a couple of the site’s math videos previously.
However, now I had a particular motivation to learn at least this one topic. I had a new client to win over. So, I watched Salman Khan calmly and clearly explain z-scores in the included videos, and then I tried to complete the topic exercises. I got required 5 questions in a row correct and was rewarded with a ‘mastery’ designation! I was ecstatic about learning such a challenging topic so quickly and I shared my happiness with my family.
Shown above is the screen showing that I had ‘mastered’ this advanced topic. This is what I proudly showed to my partner and feeling happy about having learned an important math concept. After my partner saw this he asked me a very effective question, “Why don’t you just do the whole thing?”
So, I did.
To read about how I did it and how you can too, download my article here.