Tutoring Cousins at Scale, Khan Academy Educates the World

From tutoring his cousin in algebra to creating an on-demand learning community that reaches millions across the globe, you could say that Salman Khan has put his Harvard MBA to good use.


Big Think Edge is a video-driven platform that catalyzes happiness and performance in professional environments by cultivating leadership, creativity, and self-knowledge. Learn more about Big Think Edge.

From tutoring his cousin in algebra to creating an on-demand learning community that reaches millions across the globe, you could say that Salman Khan has put his Harvard MBA to good use. Khan is the creator of Khan Academy, the educational organization and website that aims to provide "a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere" operating on the inspiring premise that "you can learn anything."

When Khan sat down with Big Think, he told the personal story behind the business, which Forbes called "a $1 trillion opportunity." But what appears in hindsight as an overnight success began slowly, with Khan tutoring an extended group of cousins, helping them achieve small degrees of academic success and then building that success to scale.

"I started building software for [my cousins] to make sure that they had strong foundations in things like basic arithmetic, fractions, decimals, exponents. And that software that I was making for them that gave them as much practice as they needed and solutions and a way for me as their tutor to keep track of what they were doing, that was the first incarnation of Khan Academy."

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

Videos
  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Trauma in childhood leads to empathy in adulthood

It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Mind & Brain

  • A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
  • The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
  • The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less