Sometimes we have questions, but the answers don’t come easily. Or maybe they just bring up more questions. Maybe you’re working on a project and it would be so cool if your character could do such-and-such or if they knew everything about whatever. Researching the topic yourself is the best way to get answers, but that research isn’t always easy.
One of my novels on a back burner right now involves a girl who is very math-minded. The problem? I am so not a math person. At all. Never have been. In fact, it took me three years just to master multiplication. I wish I was exaggerating.
I haven’t worked on this story much yet (partially because the idea of going back and assigning myself math homework was a little scary), but I overheard someone at work talking about an online library of videos, something called The Khan Academy.
There are some ideas and that are so genius you wonder how no one ever done something like this before. Salman Khan began by tutoring his cousins online and eventually posted some of his lessons on YouTube. Other people found them, commented, and soon he was posting more and more lessons, getting hundreds, then thousands of comments from all over the globe. Soon he’d created a library of simple lessons on math and science from basic addition to higher maths like calculus and physics. These videos have been used as tutoring tools, homeschooling lessons, and even in classrooms. Suddenly, because of these lessons, going back and relearning math doesn’t seem so scary.
I’m telling this story for two reasons. 1) Don’t back away from a story idea just because one element of the story is daunting. You never know when the right tool is going to fall into your lap. And, 2) Salman Khan really is a genius. For a long time I’ve hoped to homeschool my kids (when/if I ever have any), but teaching math and science wasn’t something I looked forward to. I think that the lessons he’s creating here will change the face of education not only for parents who don’t trust the educational system, but also for the students who are enrolled in public (and even private) schools. The Khan Academy and Salman’s hopes for the future of education are best explained in his own words, so I’m going to leave you with this video of his appearance at the TED Talks (another really fascinating library of videos).
Hopefully you’ll learn something new. If not, you might at least find it entertaining.