Khan Academy founder Salman Khan

Khan Academy founder Salman Khan
Image: Khan Academy

Just a few years ago, Salman Khan led a very different life. He was an MIT graduate working as a hedge fund manager. But today, he’s known as the brilliant founder of Khan Academy, an electronic math tutoring program that has 10 million users and more than 5,000 courses.

It all started in 2004 when Khan’s 12-year-old cousin Nadia needed a little extra help in math. He started tutoring her over phone, and soon word spread through his family that he was tutoring for free. Before he knew it, Khan was meeting with 15 cousins on a regular basis, helping them learn and get through a subject they didn’t think they could understand. Two years later, in 2006, he launched his first video lessons on YouTube. By 2008, the videos were getting tens of thousands of views per month. In 2008, Khan Academy was officially born.

When asked how he managed to make math more fun and less dreaded by students, Khan’s answer is simple: “I tried to strike a balance. There’s some STEM teaching where the lecture is blah — no joy, no intonation. On the other side, you have people who try to make it fun by making it less math-y. That’s often cheesy. I was trying to get to the idea behind the math and say: ‘This is a really interesting idea.’ Once you get it, it’s beautiful.'”

To learn more about Salman Khan and his brilliant free tutoring program, Khan Academy, check out his profile on Supporting Education.