NOVA Labs on Khan Academy: a brand-new way to explore science

Have you ever wondered what causes solar flares or how clouds form?  Do you have questions about computer viruses and hacking? Or are you curious about  RNA, the wonder molecule that’s crucial to life as we know it? Starting today, you can explore these topics on Khan Academy through lessons created by our partners at NOVA Labs.


NOVA Labs ( is a free science resource from the producers of the NOVA television series on PBS,  the most popular science series on American television. Through NOVA Labs,  teens and lifelong learners take part in real-world investigations by visualizing, analyzing, and playing with the same data that scientists use. These games and activities foster authentic scientific exploration, supported by the world-class science videos that NOVA has been making for over 40 years.

Khan Academy is now excited to offer five different investigations from NOVA Labs for aspiring scientists: Cybersecurity, RNA: the wonder molecule, The Sun and solar storms, Energy, and Clouds. You’ll learn to predict solar storms, design renewable energy systems, track cloud movements, design biomolecules and more. Start exploring today, and let us know what you think in the comments below.


How a math challenge can teach more than just math

Students celebrate at the LearnStorm finals

Students celebrate at the LearnStorm finals (photograph by Andrew Weeks).

Sherry*, a 5th grade student, didn’t want to come to Google. For months she’d been working hard on LearnStorm, the Khan Academy math challenge, and had earned a top spot on the leaderboards. For weeks our team had been working with Google to build the most epic final award celebration we could devise. We asked her teacher, Jen Ellison, what was up and the response was heartbreaking:

“I don’t ride in cars much.”

Ms. Ellison said Sherry’s response reminded her of the crippling effects of poverty. Sherry is ten years old. She doesn’t often leave her neighborhood. “Driving an hour away might as well be the moon.”

The thing is, this kind of self-limiting thinking is not only a problem for kids from underserved neighborhoods: most people are held back in some way by their mindset. Last year Edelman-Berland helped us do a poll that showed that the majority of people think their intelligence level is fixed. The research shows not only that this is inaccurate, but also that when students think this way, their test scores suffer, and they are less likely to take on the learning challenges that will set them up for future success.

We designed LearnStorm as a direct attack on these ways of thinking. We knew that to be truly impactful we would need to create a hands-on way to practice positive learning mindsets. Could we design a math challenge that taught a lot more than just math?

We launched LearnStorm in the Bay Area as a pilot. Based on what we’d learned from other math competitions, we aimed to reach at least one percent of students in grades 3-12, which is about 13,000. Three months later, over 73,000 students from about 1,600 Bay Area schools have participated in LearnStorm. They’ve earned points and prizes not only for mastering math skills but also for showing “hustle,” a metric we created to measure grit, perseverance, and growth. They competed over 200,000 hours of learning and 13.6 million standards-aligned math problems.

In addition, thanks to the generosity of,, and Comcast’s Internet Essentials, 34 underserved schools unlocked new devices for their classrooms and free home internet service for eligible families, increasing student access to online learning tools like Khan Academy.

Bella Vista Elementary

Bella Vista Elementary, one of the 34 schools that earned new devices for its classrooms through LearnStorm

On Saturday, we invited the LearnStorm students who mastered the most math and showed the most hustle to a finals celebration on the Google campus. These students competed in individual and team challenges and earned educational prizes from organizations such as the Exploratorium, Ardusat, the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Tech Museum of Innovation, the California Academy of Sciences, NASA, NASCAR, and the San Francisco 49ers.

Thanks to the efforts of her teacher, Ms. Ellison, Sherry was there. Thanks to her grit, determination and growth in math, she earned a prize and was celebrated by 300 of her peers from across the Bay Area at the heart of Google. As Ms. Ellison put it:

“LearnStorm taught us about hope, endurance and grit… It taught us to encourage one another because everyone struggles. It taught us that you can learn anything. It taught us that we are capable of more than we can imagine…. Oh, and we learned some math, too.”

Teacher Jen Ellison tells Sal her school's story

Teacher Jen Ellison tells Sal her school’s story (photograph by Andrew Weeks).

At Khan Academy we’ve been inspired by Sherry and all the participants, volunteers, teachers and parents who made this LearnStorm pilot such a success. We’re working with the same hustle, grit and determination to make LearnStorm bigger and better. So stay tuned for updates later this year!

- James Tynan, Adoption Lead


Khan Academy helps students prepare for medical school admission test


There were many memorable moments on my road to becoming a doctor, but a few stand out.

1. Biking to the hospital in the snow, day after day after day (it was in Boston), during residency. Wet scrubs are no fun.

2. Talking to a teenage girl who was embarrassed about having to find a prom dress that would cover the large psoriasis plaques on her elbows

3. High-fiving and hugging a patient-turned-friend moments after finding out his leukemia was in remission!

4. Helping to give a baby its first breath…

5. Studying for the MCAT® exam (Medical College Admission Test)

Are you surprised that last one made the list? Don’t be. I studied for the MCAT for weeks and weeks, and walked out feeling drained. It was a grueling experience and I was a basket case, running around trying to balance my class-load with finding reliable study materials and knocking out practice questions on weekends. For three long months, I ate, slept, studied, and stressed (in that order). But I realize that the work I put into preparing helped get me ready for medical school.

This April, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is unveiling a new and improved MCAT exam. More than 80,000 individuals will take this new test on their road to medical school each year. And with the help of the AAMC and a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Khan Academy has built resources to help students prepare for the exam.

For the past two years, we’ve worked with a fantastic team of educators to create more than 900 videos and 2,000 questions spanning all of the foundational concepts tested on the new exam. These include biochemistry, biology, physiology, physics, chemistry, and - for the first time ever - the social sciences, specifically psychology and sociology.  

It’s amazing to think that within four years, students taking the new MCAT are going to be physicians in every single clinic, hospital, and operating theater across the United States and Canada. They’ll be caring for you or someone you love.

We know that aspiring medical students want to learn, and we want to be a small part of their journey. Good luck to everyone taking the new MCAT exam - we hope you find our new study tools helpful!

  • Rishi Desai, Program Lead - Medical Partnerships


New course: Learn to make your web pages interactive with JavaScript

On Khan Academy, our two most popular programming courses are Intro to JavaScript, where you learn the fundamentals of JavaScript with the ProcessingJS library, and Intro to HTML/CSS, where you learn to create, style, and lay out a web page. But that’s like having strawberries and chocolate in front of you, and not dunking a strawberry in the chocolate.

Why? Well, JavaScript was originally invented in order to bring HTML/CSS web pages to life, to make them interactive with events and animation. The language has become very popular since its invention and is now used outside of browsers, but, still today, it is the only language that browsers natively understand and it is used by every interactive web page on the internet.

That’s why we’ve put together a course on making web pages interactive – combining your knowledge of HTML/CSS with your knowledge of JavaScript so that you can programmatically access parts of your page and modify them in response to all sorts of user events. With that knowledge, you can make slideshows, games, galleries, apps – virtually anything you’ve seen on the web.

Dive in here:

A big thanks to our early reviewers for all their great feedback:

Nicholas Zakas, Kevin Lozandier, wbwalp, SpongeJR, and Katarina L


The Learning Myth: Why I'll Never Tell My Son He's Smart

This article has a new home! Read it here alongside other conversations with Sal.