Wednesday, March 10, 2010

MBA math review

I've been doing a lot of MBA math prep over the past four months. I started with a Barron's GMAT guide, then switched over to the Kaplan GMAT Math WorkbookKaplan GMAT math workbook, which was better for algebra and geometry review. But when it comes time to complete actual coursework, more advanced mathematical and statistics concepts will be required. For MBA math review in those areas, I've turned to an unlikely source: YouTube. Specifically, the wonderful collection of short videos found on the Khan's Academy website. Here's a sample from the calculus section,  the introduction to limits that I watched last night:

The author and narrator of this and hundreds of other videos on math, science, and business-related topics is Salman Khan. "Sal" is a graduate of MIT and the Harvard Business School who started posting simple math videos on YouTube to help a young cousin who was struggling with a few basic concepts. When other people started watching and responding to the videos on YouTube, he quickly realized that there was a market for these types of tutorials, not only in basic math subjects, but also in more advanced topics. I've already mentioned the calculus videos. Another example for people preparing for an MBA is the section on finance, which starts out with an introduction to interest, and works up to videos on bankruptcy filings and the multiplier effect and the money supply.

These topics won't be news to students with Wall Street backgrounds. But for students entering business school who don't come from the worlds of banking or finance, they serve as useful briefings before starting the lectures, textbook chapters, and problem sets that are a part of the typical MBA curriculum. Sal explains the concepts in very clear language, putting diagrams and formulae on the screen as he describes the concepts and gives examples. He has a friendly, easygoing manner which really puts people at ease. Sal now works on the site nearly full-time, with a mission of providing an education via "the world's free virtual school" (the videos are free, and the organization is run as a nonprofit).

It's an admirable goal, and I thank Sal for sharing his knowledge with the world in this manner. While I have had harsh words about online education in the past, I think what he's doing here -- providing math and science lessons using simple, short-form videos -- is extremely useful. The point here is not dialogue (although some people have responded with their own YouTube videos and comments),  advanced study with other students and faculty, or a degree. Rather, Khan's Academy is all about reinforcing basic concepts and introducing viewers to more advanced topics, and increasing their understanding of how things work.

Update: Since writing this post, I have taken an online math class for credit, and have this to say about the online education experience:

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