Fred is a quirky little 6 year old who is a university professor of mathematics.
Just that bit of info got me interested in learning more about the series known as Life of Fred by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph. D. He takes real life situations as interpreted by Fred and uses them to teach math courses that can be started at around 5th grade or so and continue into college levels. The great thing about these books is that first, you see where the math is needed. Then, you learn the math.
We were looking for something different and this series was recommended to me. You start with Fractions and move on to Decimals, which make up a sort of Pre- Pre-Algebra course. He has recently written a two book Pre-Algebra course that also includes Biology and Economics. You then move on to Algebra and Advanced Algebra. Each of these books take a page out of the “Life of Fred” and explores how he deals with different situations in his life, and only a small amount talks about him teaching like a professor.
Most of it is how he deals with his day to day experiences, friends, enemies, needs, and leisure time. They can be read as a story and not be boring. They can be taken as review books for later in life (like for a former math teacher revisiting these topics for the first time in 15 years). There are a lot of other topics woven into the story as well. Vocabulary, literature, philosophy, Latin, ethics, nothing is too much for Fred to take on.
- My kids got interested in the stories and then the math.
- They can work on their own.
- They can check their own work for day to day stuff, though I correct the quizzes and tests, otherwise known as “Bridges” to the next part.
- They are funny.
- They are inexpensive. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get the teacher’s manual, the student workbook, the tests, the computer program, the bonus activities, etc. You can buy the book and then the companion book if there is one.
- They aren’t dependent on a calculator.
- They cover from about 5th grade to college level.
- Some come with a pre-planned companion so you can see how much to do each day.
- There is a money back guarantee.
- Kids work on their own. There can be a temptation to just copy the answers down and be done. However, this is addressed in the book.
- One child might need extra help with a topic. I find that it is easy to find more practice, however, and to work through the difficult part with them or find another way to teach that concept.
- Not everyone wants to learn this way. Some kids learn better with textbooks, drills, videos or other programs. The nice thing is that there isn’t a large amount of money invested, so you can take it or leave it at this point.
- The books are not limited to just math. Read the books before your kids do to make sure everything is alright with you.
- It doesn’t “feel” like a math book. Hmm. I don’t mind this one.
- Some of the books DON’T have the companion book and you are on your own for how much to do. My son and I worked out a lesson schedule for this year that kept daily work at a reasonable level.
Right now, I have one son using the Pre-Algebra book 2 and another son using the Geometry book. They are both doing well. My oldest has hit a sort of block with Geometry but we are working through it. It isn’t a problem with the books, it’s more of a change in priorities for him. Math is no longer his favorite thing to do since he realized he loves to write, so he’s kind of let this slide.
It’ll work out.
He started with the Fractions book in 5th grade and loved it. We then went through Decimals, Beginning Algebra, Advanced Algebra, and now Geometry. My 2nd son started with the Fractions and Decimals and is now in the Pre-Algebra books and still is very happy with the program. The Pre-Algebra books hadn’t been written with my oldest, but he read them later. One of my daughters started with Fractions but wasn’t quite ready so we are back tracking a bit and will probably try again next year.
Of all the math curricula I have researched and tried without spending a lot of money, this is the one I’ve talked about the most.
The author is personable and has even answered emails about his books, including when we found an error in one of the earlier editions. I love the books’ taglines…. “As serious as it needs to be.”
Overall, this is one of our favorite homeschool purchases and I plan on buying the rest of the set, whether our children use them in schooling or I use them for review. A great resource.
Tabitha (wife to Tom, homeschooling mom to 8 kids ages 14 to 1, learning something new all the time)