#MTT2k Khan Videos Conceptual v. Procedural

Readers are invited to comment on their answers to the following questions.

Are Khan videos procedural but not conceptual?

All videos are procedural?

All videos are non-conceptual?

Khan videos are non-conceptual?

Is procedural non-conceptual?

Is conceptual non-procedural?

A concept is never a procedure?

A procedure is never a concept?

Is anything with a procedure that you can imitate non-conceptual?

If you can learn a procedure then it is not conceptual?

Click here to take survey

If you can learn a procedure you can imitate, then it is not conceptual?

Concepts help you understand a procedure, but the procedure itself is not conceptual?

Learning concepts helps you understand procedures, but learning procedures does not help you understand concepts?

Learning procedures helps you learn concepts?

Learning procedures does not help you learn concepts?

Click here to take survey part 2
Some of the questions above were edited slightly for grammar or clarity after reading Mr. Michael Paul Goldenberg’s comments.

I will post new surveys using any submitted questions. Please include any title you want and attribution and links.

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This entry was posted in Conceptual v Procedural, Conceptual v Procedural videos, Khan Academy, MTT2k, MTT2k Prize, Mystery Teacher Theatre 2000, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to #MTT2k Khan Videos Conceptual v. Procedural

  1. Some pretty absurd questions and some useful ones. I won’t attempt to address all of them or even close.

    1) “All videos are procedural?”

    Assume you mean all Khan videos. And no one, least of all me, will view all of the KA library, not even for the purposes of doing informal research. A research project with a staff might do so collectively.

    That said, until Khan put up his revised video to replace the one that was analyzed by Golden and Coffey, I hadn’t seen one that attempted to answer any conceptual questions with more than “here’s the rule,” which is what the pulled multiplication/division of signed numbers (integers) video did (and did so poorly). So while I can’t definitively say, ‘Yes, they’re ALL procedural,” that appears to be the main focus of the bulk of them.

    As to the spate of questions you ask about whether the procedural can also be conceptual (e.g., “Is anything with a procedure you can imitate non-conceptual?”; “If you can learn a procedure than it is not conceptual?” and “If you can learn a procedure you can imitate it is not conceptual?” the best response is to suggest that if something in mathematics isn’t mere a matter of terminology, notation, or convention (e.g., order of operations), then there is likely something ‘conceptual’ at its heart. That becomes less obvious to the average citizen, who is a non-mathematician and non-math educator (and possibly some of the latter also don’t see this if they’re teaching K-12 math), as the “level” of the particular procedure goes down. What could be less conceptual than adding? But of course, there are deep mathematical concepts underlying the procedures, even for single digit addition. Even without needing to get into carrying/regrouping to obtain the answer to 9 + 7 (why isn’t the answer 6 or written as 10 + 6? Why does it make ‘sense’ to write ’16’ which means 10 ones and 6 ones grouped together? And these are simply questions I’m tossing off while a bit groggy.

    However, the relevant question isn’t whether there are concepts lurking beneath nearly any procedure (there are) but rather whether procedures are taught as arbitrary steps to be memorized and followed without ever exploring what they mean or why they work or make sense. And from what I’ve seen, KA takes that approach most of the time unless really pushed to do otherwise. And as a mathematics educator, I find that seriously problematic for what it says about the viewpoint such a pedagogical approach and underlying philosophy teaches and reinforces about what it means to learn, know, or do mathematics. Khan Academy and Sal Khan do a huge disservice to our children and our nation in promoting the most reactionary, ignorant viewpoint of math, one that is anything but new, let alone revolutionary, one that has long been at the heart of US K-12 math education, and which hence has helped cripple the numeracy of a large percentage of our citizenry. And make no mistake: I use the word “reactionary” advisedly. It is not a coincidence that this outdated, infantilizing style of math teaching (who cares if a bad lecture is live or available digitally?) is being called groundbreaking by someone like Bill Gates, who makes his fortune by convincing people that anything done with computer technology is an enormous, must-have, revolutionary innovation. Don’t believe the hype.

    • I have put these questions into Survey Monkey. If you want to give me some other questions I will put them into a separate Survey Monkey form. I can make a separate post. If you want to give me the title of the post and the attribution or link you prefer.

    • “All videos are procedural?” This means all videos including non-Khan math/science/tech videos. If Khan is not mentioned, then the question refers to all videos in the math/science/tech field.

      • Michael Paul Goldenberg says:

        Nothing I wanted to delete, but I would rewrite/edit to correct grammatical errors, typos, and out of control sentence structure if I thought there was an urgent need to do so.

        In saying you posed some absurd questions, I probably should have made clear that I assumed you did so intentionally. That would have made more clear my intent/viewpoint.

      • Michael Paul Goldenberg says:

        Okay. Then I’d have to argue that it’s obvious the answer is no. It suffices to produce a single counter-example. There are such examples in Khan’s library, but for a higher probability of finding non-procedural videos, look at the offerings of James Tanton, James Grimes (aka, the singing banana), Paul Zeitz, and Dan Meyer, for starters.

  2. Michael Paul Goldenberg says:

    Please don’t take my first line in the previous reply as a negative shot at you. It wasn’t in the least intended as such and I deeply appreciate what ground you’ve already covered and where you’re taking the conversation here.

    • Thanks for your kind comments. I have a thick skin and see the value in off the cuff criticism, even if it takes me a second or two to remember that is how I react. I consider strong shots (negative or not) to mean I wrote something that someone read and really reacted to, i.e. a useful contribution to the dialogue. So shoot away and don’t worry if it is negative or not. That includes using words like absurd freely.

      I also don’t mind if you or anyone else wants to edit or delete one of your comments. If the software doesn’t allow it, I will do it manually on request.

  3. xiousgeonz says:

    I share the frustration with the weirdly constructed non-sentences. IF you want to ask a question, ask a question. All videos are procedural?

    All videos are non-conceptual?


    • “procedural videos” has 21, 400 hits.

      “videos are procedural” has only a handful it is true, but if “procedural video” is correct usage, then “the video is procedural” is also correct usage.


      ” Michael Langdon says:
      07/19/2012 at 8:43 pm

      Yes, Khan’s videos are procedural, but procedures aren’t remembered unless students understand the conceptual framework behind them. ”

      So other people are using this construction in this argument. This is because it is a natural and correct use of language.

      “Red apples” -> The apple is red.

      Whether all videos are procedural is a fair question since something like that might either have been stated explicitly or implicitly asserted in the critiques of Khan.

      There is certainly a dispute over whether videos are conceptual and whether videos can teach concepts or teach math at all. If videos can teach procedures and can teach concepts, then the case that math videos are misguided and useless is seriously weakened.

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