Say what you will about Sal Khan (and I have certainly said a lot), but he communicates a tremendous amount of patience with his students.
I watched his video on “Basic Addition” the other day.
He begins with the assumption that the viewer has absolutely no equipment for finding the sum 1+1.
This bears repeating. He assumes absolutely no knowledge of the meaning of the addition symbol in the expression 1+1. None.
As he does so, Khan is patient, supportive and encouraging. He does not condescend and he even apologizes for the word basic in the title of the video-worrying that his viewer may be put off by the term.
When I think of the culture of many math classrooms, in which students don’t ask questions out of fear of looking stupid, or in which instructors use words such as trivial and obvious without apology or concern for the effect these words can have on learners, I get a glimpse of what people find so appealing about Khan’s videos.
Khan gives permission to not know. He reassures the viewer that it’s OK to still be figuring things out. And of course he is happy to repeat what he just said as many times as the viewer likes. Just stop and rewind. The calm, patient demeanor never changes.
The field could learn from Khan’s kindness.