Salman Khan with supporter Bill Gates. Photo: jurvetson

It’s not every day that you scan a YouTube comment feed and see “More quantum physics, please!”

Unsurprisingly, Khan Academy followers can’t get enough of the product: online education tutorials that are easy to use and, best of all, free.

The site has thousands of math and science tutorials, and a decent library of finance and history lectures too. The video lessons are delivered in digestible 10-20 minute chunks, with corresponding online exercises. Students earn badges at each level, including Khan Academy’s version of a Masters. According to the site, they’re great incentive to young Khan Academy users, who collect the badges like Silly Bands.

Founder Salman Khan’s story is a cool cubicle-breakout tale. The 33-year-old American quit his job as a hedge fund analyst to work, unpaid, on his educational videos. Khan’s YouTube project developed into the not-for-profit Academy. His site is especially popular with high school and university students, with a million students accessing materials each month. He recently gave a sweet interview with Stephen Colbert.

As a teacher, I give full kudos to Khan for his clear and well-paced lessons. I also feel a little jealous for his natural teaching talent. This man knows how to break things down easily, and how slip in those amiable asides mastered by favorite high school math teachers everywhere. I haven’t tackled an algebra problem in over a decade, but I could follow right along with his age word problem series.

Classroom skills aside, I respect the hell out of Khan and his organization for their vision of free, accessible education. Simply packaged, simply served.

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