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Sal Khan and Tony Marx talk about financial education programs and financial literacy awareness

In June 2014, Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, joined Tony Marx, President and CEO of the New York Public Library, to discuss how partnerships and financial education programs like Better Money Habits can help boost financial literacy awareness and lead to a new world of educational innovation.

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ANDY SIEG: So now I'd like you to please meet our guests and welcome them in person, so please join me in welcoming Sal Khan and Tony Marx, who are going to come down and take seats in the front.

QUESTION: How can Bank of America's partnership help move education forward?

SAL KHAN: You know, the Bank of America partnership, one of the huge dividends of it, and we didn't really expect this, but you all did a really I think incredible marketing campaign that I think it only reinforced who we are about, and it built awareness. I mean, I'd argue there's probably a few million more people learning algebra. They're definitely learning financial literacy but learning algebra or physics or history because of this partnership. So I think awareness, this has been a big help, but the more that we can drive more awareness. I would guess in Manhattan or even in this building, if you ask how many people – well, in this building, everyone knows about Khan Academy – but if you go to a place where most of the people, college-educated, very high awareness of Khan Academy. But if you go to the neighborhoods where they need it the most, less awareness, and so I think the more things that we can do like this to build awareness of, "Hey, this is a free tool, it can empower your children, and yourself," the better.

TONY MARX: It's so interesting that at this moment in history, the partnerships that are possible, that we had never even imagined, right? The notion that the Library would be partnering with Bank of America so that we can teach 150,000 or 200,000 people basic computer skills at a go, in addition to being the only ones teaching coding in the South Bronx or Harlem, and providing access so that people can get online, and then they're partnering with you so that they can get Khan Academy and spread the word about Khan Academy – it's just a new world of thinking about how we can innovate together.

QUESTION: What makes the Khan Academy approach different?

SAL KHAN: Everything we do is really around people learning at their own pace, so if it takes you two years to learn algebra, that's fine, or if it takes two weeks, you're going to learn at your own pace, master concepts, and it's much more tied to what, you know, it's not the graduate level. Eventually we do hope to do some work there but we hope we can start, you know, even if your goal is to learn, machine learning, we will start you where you need to learn, which it could be decimals, and so I think people find it much, much more accessible. And if we're talking about financial literacy, if I'm doing a video on financial literacy and I start doing net present value, it's accessible because if a learners says, "Wait, what's the percentages, I haven't seen that for a while?" We have content on percentages that you got first exposed to in middle school or in late elementary school, so that people can start there.

QUESTION: How do you approach financial education?

SAL KHAN: The more that you don't understand the basics, the more formula memorization you have to do, which you're eventually going to forget, and I feel like there's a lot of that going on in finance where, you know, there's rules of thumb. "Hey, someone told me I should do this but someone else told me I should do this. What's the right answer?" But if we can teach people the underlying principles, then when there's a new context or a new event that emerges, we can put people in a little bit better situation to answer the questions themselves, and also when they're dealing with professionals, to ask the right questions that are specific to their situation. So yeah, I think there's a lot that can be done here, and some of the initial, you know, we get letters all the time from people who say, "Hey, I finally understand this issue now. Now I can take action on it."

TONY MARX: Not only are people accessing but educating themselves and each other, but creating. It's no longer a guild, it's anybody can join in. The possibilities here, which I think Sal's work so eloquently demonstrates, can make the Gutenberg revolution look puny by comparison. That is the world we're living in. It's the most incredible opportunity, I think, we've ever had.

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