From Math to History, These 8 YouTube Channels Are for Learners of All Ages

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You’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating: School is a lot different than it used to be.

I’m not talking about walking to school uphill, both ways, through six feet of snow without shoes; I’m talking about which subjects are taught, and more importantly, how they’re taught.

I used to hear jokes about the “new math” and thought those people were crazy. Then my own children hit the higher elementary school years, and I felt their pain. And my son’s algebra? It’s been a couple of decades since I had to use letters as numbers, so I wasn’t much help to him.

Luckily, there’s YouTube. YouTube has a lot of educational channels that cover a wide variety of topics. When my kids and I are scratching our heads about homework, I can search these educational YouTube channels for the answers we need.

It’s Okay to Be Smart

The name of this educational YouTube channel perfectly fits the casually curious nature of its videos. It’s Okay to Be Smart has live-action videos that are combined with slick animations to create a TV-worthy channel.

Host Joe Hanson, who has a Ph.D. in biology, explores a wide variety of topics. Some of this topics are common, like why beavers are so smart, but his infectious enthusiasm gives them a unique spin. Other topics are out of left field, like Why Salt & Pepper? which looks at the history of these common table spices and why they’re paired together.

Most of the videos are around five minutes long, and they are terribly entertaining.

CGP Grey

CGP Grey hosts an educational YouTube channels that’s slightly different from the others. He covers a lot of different subjects, like geography, history and politics, but he doesn’t just stick to the facts. Frequently, Grey offers up one of the world’s problems, along with his opinion on how to fix that problem.

For instance, in his video The Trouble with the Electoral College, he makes it pretty clear that he thinks the popular vote should be the only vote that counts in the United States.

Several of his videos, which last between five and 10 minutes, are presented in a tongue-in-cheek way that gives them a fresh angle. One example is How to Become the British Monarch.

TED-Ed

No doubt, you’ve heard of TED Talks, those videos where someone shares their mind-blowing ideas while wearing a high-tech headset. Well, the TED organization also has an educational YouTube channel called TED-Ed.

Just like TED Talks, TED-Ed uses a combination of technology, entertainment and design to tackle important subjects in an impactful way. TED-Ed videos talk about culturally significant subjects, like how drugs affect the brain. But some videos are more trivial, like how the bendy straw was invented.

TED-Ed videos, which use TV cartoon-like animation, run anywhere from two to five minutes. Most of their videos are targeted at young people.

OpenLearn

OpenLearn is the video branch of Open University, which offers free courses in all kinds of subjects. You can study the arts or forensic science or project management or… well, just about anything!

OpenLearn taps academic experts and guest contributors for their videos. They use a combination of interviews and animation to explore each topic.

Most videos are only a few minutes long. Some of them look at global issues, like death around the world; others look at more specific parts of the world, like the history of the European Union (EU).

If you decide to take free courses from Open University, you’ll earn digital badges for each course or skill you complete.

Mental Floss

Mental Floss videos are addictive! Talk about an internet rabbit hole.

The Mental Floss YouTube channel is an extension of their website. Their educational videos list fact after fact about any given subject, as demonstrated by the numbers in the video thumbnails.

For instance, if you watch 39 Facts About the Middle Ages, you’ll walk away knowing 39 fascinating tidbits about a time in history when beaver tails were a delicacy.

Mental Floss videos run the gamut and include more academic topics, like why there are silent letters in the English language, to more trivial matters, like 31 weird discontinued products.

These videos are addictive due to Mental Floss’s formula of fast-paced speaking and obscure facts, plus a backdrop full of pop culture collectibles. It’s all topped off with host John Green’s high energy, making you want to watch one episode right after another.

Numberphile

Have you ever wanted to know what a mile of Pi looks like? If you answered yes, then Numberphile is the channel for you.

In some videos, Numberphile’s creator Brady Haran teaches simple math. Most of his videos, however, look at numbers on a large scale in a way that makes math more, well, interesting. He combines filmed footage with animation and expert guest hosts.

All of Numberphile’s videos have something to do with math, but they cover big ideas as well as more relatable ones. For instance, you can learn about a math concept called the Kolakoski Sequence, but you can also see the scientific way to cut a cake.

If you really want to get your nerd on, watch their playlist of calculator unboxings.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is one of the most well-known educational YouTube channels. Years ago, Sal Khan made videos to help tutor his cousin. Now, Khan Academy has hundreds of videos that were created by a team of more than 150 people.

The Khan Academy YouTube channel has well-organized playlists so you can easily watch a series of videos on one subject. The playlist for trigonometry has 39 videos alone. However, each video is about five minutes long, so you can take breaks and digest what you’re learning.

While Khan Academy teaches science, math, language arts, social studies and other subjects that most school students need, there are videos for other skills, like how to write an argumentative essay for the SAT.

This channel is serious about learning. Unlike Mental Floss, you won’t find any trivial videos here. But you will find videos that dig deep into whatever academic subject you need help with.

School of Life

The School of Life is a unique educational YouTube channel because it doesn’t focus on academics at all. Instead, School of Life wants to teach people how to navigate their lives the best way they can. And their videos teach skills that you can use in every aspect of your life.

This global organization applies psychology, philosophy and culture to everyday life. Some of their videos focus on personal skills, like how to be a good listener. Other videos, however, tackle tough life lessons, like whether to stay in or leave a relationship.

Because the School of Life’s contributors love studying all aspects of what it means to be human, you’ll also find the occasional video on history or social studies, like why Socrates hated democracy.

School of Life won’t replace good parenting or therapists, but it comes close!

YouTube has an educational channel to fit everyone’s needs. Whether you need help with your math homework, or you’re becoming your best self, you’ll find lots of videos that have what you need.

Nancy Basile has almost 20 years experience as a freelance writer for the web. She focuses on finding ways to squeeze more entertainment into your day for less. Catch her on Twitter @realmediamedusa.

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