Updated April 2016

Khan Academy: Pixar in a Box

Great tool shows kids how math relates to creative design

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5-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pixar in a Box is a themed set of lessons on the Khan Academy platform, infused with very well-produced videos and web-based interactive widgets to help kids get excited about and visualize the math behind some of Disney's biggest animated features. Each lesson comes with an introductory video that explains math concepts such as using parabolic curves to model grass or using weighted averages to translate clay sculptures into 3D computer models. Learners then play around with tools based on the real tools that Pixar animators use and are given the opportunity to test their knowledge through built-in assessment.

Every page in a lesson takes advantage of the web platform and allows users to comment or discuss, which makes for some very powerful collective learning. Each lesson also comes with hands-on activities, taking a constructivist approach to learning as kids make things with paper, string, pencils, and scissors. For more advanced learners (such as high school students), lessons provide deeper insights into the mathematical formulas behind the visual concepts. Teachers could easily incorporate Pixar in a Box as a self-directed unit to be done either individually (or in pairs) or as a great supplemental homework activity.

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Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Alexander G. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Wooster High School
Wooster, OH
Love MOST of it.

My take is that I love it. We use it as low as 3rd grade for math but I tend not to go any lower than that grade level when introducing it. From a system administration stand point for a district to use it is kind of a pain since there are no upload options available for mass registration of students. Also, we stay away from under grade 3 due to the fact that there is something funky when using the text-to-speech options either in Google Chrome or using the OS text-to-speech as when it reads numbers it will read them 3 times. For example, if the question is "Stan was driving 30 miles per hour. How long will it take him to drive 60 miles?" It will say "Stan is driving 30,3030 miles per hour. How long will it take him to drive 60,6060 miles?".

In 3rd and 4th grade when we begin using it though the students love it, especially since it is a tool where they can go and work at their own pace. It is difficult for teachers to differentiate lessons for each individual students and meet them where they are when teaching a whole-class designed curriculum. With Khan Academy the students are able to work on their own for what they need and the teacher can see all of it through their dashboard, even down to the exact minute the student was working on a skill.

Overall, I love it. Some of the setup is a pain to begin but if you have someone willing to do it that believes in the benefits of the program it is worth it.

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