Education Opinion

The MTT2K Prize and Kudos for Khan

By Justin Reich — June 22, 2012 4 min read
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I’m very pleased to announce the very first MTT2K Prize for the best video commentary on a Khan Academy video! But first, the story so far:

On June 18, John Golden and David Coffey published Episode 1 of Mystery Teacher Theater 2000, a parody and critique of a Khan Academy video about Multiplying and Dividing Negative Numbers. In the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Golden and Coffey watched the video and poked fun at some of Khan’s mistakes and the reverence that the Khan videos have inspired.

Khan Academy immediately pulled down the video, and on June 19, two separate new videos appeared on the site: on Multiplying Positive and Negative Numbers and Dividing Positive and Negative Numbers. It appears obvious to me that Khan had watched the MTT2K critique and immediately implemented several of their suggestions as well as other changes. For instance, Golden and Coffey tease Khan for inconsistently applying a plus symbol before positive numbers, and Khan is much more careful about explaining the intent of the symbol in the revision. Most importantly, Khan says that these videos are the procedural introduction to the topic and that a conceptual video is forthcoming. On June 22, Khan released another new video called Why a Negative Times a Negative is a Positive, which provides one set of reasoning to answer the question.

(Savvy viewers recognized within hours that Khan’s work is similar to a 2009 video from James Tanton. Khan emailed me to correct the impression that the new video was directly inspired by Tanton; rather, they have a common heritage in a classic proof. Khan was was originally introduced to the arguments by his eighth grade Algebra teacher, Mrs. Welter. He also referenced a short 1997 web page from Kenny Felder. It takes a village to raise a lecture.)

As far as I’m concerned, MTT2K has brought all kinds of good to the world. Golden and Coffey role model how teachers should bring a critical eye to educational materials, produced by Khan, the basal publishers, or anywhere in the commons. They gave Khan Academy free proofreading and peer review. Khan removed a video with some problems, and within hours he replaced it with three videos full of improvements and specific responses to the critiques. Maybe some people have discovered Tanton’s videos as a terrific alternative and complement to Khan. As Charlie Sheen might say, #winning.

So to keep the spirit alive this summer, Dan Meyer and I are sponsoring the MTT2K Prize. We’re going to award $750 in prizes to the best video critiques of Khan Academy Videos published by August 15, 2012. To enter, just upload a video to YouTube with the tag #mtt2k. Dan has agreed to help me judge, and we have invited the Khan Academy folks to participate as well. The videos will be judged along two criteria: Entertainment and Enlightenment. Details below: Let the Games Begin!

The 2012 MTT2K Prize

Why the MTT2K Prize? Khan Academy is a terrific resource put together by a truly philanthropic spirit. The videos also have some errors of mathematics and pedagogy, and there are very legitimate questions about whether the video series overemphasizes procedures over concepts. First and foremost, the MTT2K prize seeks to encourage math educators to create videos that help their peers bring a critical eye to the Khan series. Ideally, teachers will be better users of Khan with this perspective. As a secondary benefit, Khan appears to be receptive to thoughtful criticism, and has shown an impressive willingness to immediately improve his work. So he’ll get some free peer review.

Why a Prize? You know, Netflix Prize. X-Prize. Robo-grader Prize. We’re trying to catch the zeitgeist.

How do I Enter? Just upload a video to YouTube with a #mtt2k tag before August 15, 2012.

What do I Win? Right now, we’re offering four prizes: a $250 People’s Choice Prize, a $250 Grand Prize, and a $150 second prize and $100 third prize. (Logistics for People’s Choice award to follow).

If anyone wants to contribute to the prize kitty, email me or hit me up on Twitter. We’re going to ask Gates to contribute. As we get more prize money, I’ll update.

How do I Win? Create a video that is Entertaining and Enlightening. It does have to feature a Khan Academy video. It doesn’t have to be exactly in the format of MST3K, but if you do go that route, get a talking robot. It can be a parody; it can be celebratory; it has to be fun and enriching.

How Else Can I Help? If anyone else wants to help judge, or to help provide technical support to video producers, hit me up on Twitter and we’ll get you involved.

Fine Print: There have to be at least ten entries by different people for the prize to be awarded. If no one comes to the party, I’m taking my ball and going home. Education Week and Editorial Projects in Education have absolutely nothing to do with this. Leave them alone.

If anyone has any questions, add them to the comments. Here’s to a great summer of educator media-making and thinking carefully about math education!

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.


29-06-2012- Thanks to Maria Andersen who is sponsoring the second and third place prizes.
23-06-2012- Corrected James Tanton’s name to be spelled correctly. Sorry, James.
23-06-2012- Added a 2nd and a 3rd place prize
23-06-2012- Added corrections from Sal Khan. The original post suggested that Khan’s new video was derivative of a James Tanton video, and Khan corrects the derivation and credits his 8th grade algebra teacher, Mrs. Welter and Kenny Felder.

The opinions expressed in EdTech Researcher are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.