Life of Fred Math: Curriculum Review

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.

Check out the website at http://www.polkadotpublishing.com .

Benefits:

  • 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.
Drawbacks:
  • 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)

About Tabitha

Tabitha is wife to Tom and homeschooling mom to 10 children ages almost 17 to “on the way.” She is learning something new all the time.


This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Comments

  1. abba12 says:

    Thank you for this review, I’m thinking of getting the books to finish the math I never finished at high school!

  2. Chrystina says:

    I have to agree with abba 12, I needed this review for myself.

  3. Jolyn says:

    I have been thinking about looking into either Life of Fred or Singapore math as a companion/review with Teaching Textbooks, which (at this point) I am going to use as the foundation of our math curriculum. However, Toni’s review of TT and her daughter’s testing results concerned me. I *need* my son to be math independent (it will be our first year homeschooling) (he’s in high school) but I also plan on incorporating (PSAT, then SAT/ACT) test prep into his schedule, and I’ve wondered if these more affordable curriculums like Life of Fred or Singapore would be a way to reinforce and test what he’s learning with TT, or if we should just try a PSAT study guide, for instance.

    Toni, do you plan on having a review of Singapore math? Thanks so much for these posts! They are invaluable for a newbie homeschooling mom like myself.

    Also- I have come across the Khan Academy website and it looks like a great place for review and even the teaching/review of specific math concepts that your child might be having trouble with. And it’s free! Does anyone have any experience using that website?

  4. Colleen says:

    I have a use Teaching Textbooks as well as Singapore. I have found Singapore to be very complete – after finishing book 6B, my daughter went through the Saxon Algebra book, and we found out that every concept had been covered except for 1! My 8th grader did not LOVE Singapore, and we went to TT for her – she chose Algebra 2 for this year. She loves it…and it has helped her to become a more independent learner for Math. My 9th grader LOVED Singapore, and has continued with their high school program. It is tough…I find that although she is a very independent learner, there are big chunks that she “needs” me for, so relearning in order to reteach has been “exhilerating” in a math geek kind of way!

    My 5th grader is also using Singapore, but he does best when working with me. The added benefit of that is that my 1st grader listens in and it is interesting what she picks up!

    I really liked how Singapore gives visual ways to break down word problems. It didn’t present “here’s the forumula, now memorize it,” but gave visuals for how to work it through. It was definitely not how I learned math, or taught math in the public schools. But, it has been very good for me to relearn a new way to look at it with my kids!

    Blessings to you on this journey!

  5. I’ve looked at these books at the last two homeschool conventions I’ve gone to. I really wish I’d found them when my older sons were still in school (they are 17 and 20 now). What I observed at the vendor tables lines up with what you said in your excellent review. I think they would have been a much less-threatening way to face high school math.

    My youngest is the only one still homeschooled, and he is a conceptual math guy for whom math is easy and fun, and it just makes sense. He does fine with the traditional textbook approach and would likely be annoyed by the greater emphasis on practical application. (My daughter, now 18, would have been the same. She liked her drills and traditional format.)

    Thanks for a really informative review. While I may not be using Life of Fred in my own homeschool, reading your review helped me feel confident about recommending it to others in the community at http://www.7sistershomeschool.com.

  6. Gabe Harder says:

    We purchased the first book last year and I assigned a little bit every month as “extra” math to my oldest. She is always asking if she can do extra “Life of Fred” I’m looking forward to getting more of these books too!

  7. Stacy says:

    Tabitha,
    Would you mind sharing your schedule on using the Fractions book (if you have one). I would love to see it. I have this book and have been struggling with exactly how to use it since it’s only 32 lessons. Do you do one lesson a week or one question a day? I’m really struggling w/how to use this curriculum and think it would really help my son with his math skills.

    I had planned on doing this book as a review over the summer, but I’ll wait to start it to see if you respond. Thank you so much for this review!

    • Stacy, we did just one lesson a day as my kids seemed to want to do it quickly. If you want to take it slower you can take it one a week or two a week or what seems to work. Both books (Fractions and Decimals) would cover a lot of a year. Spend longer on the chapters that are the problem subjects. My 11 year old daughter struggled but we are trying again next year, just slower. If it’s a problem with the book and her learning style, we’ll go with a different curriculum, however, I think she just wasn’t ready.

      If your son likes it, get both, as they go together nicely, and if you want to really make sure they have it, do all the bridges, which are quizzes between some of the chapters. He has it set up so you do just one if the topic is mastered, or two, or all of them until it is mastered. (he says 9/10, I ask my kids for 10/10)

      All of the books are GREAT for review. I am loving the later books for myself.

      I hope that helps!

  8. Ashley says:

    We are using Life of Fred for my son next year. He will be doing Geometry and the book looks fantastic and easy to learn from!

  9. Tabitha says:

    Check out my review for the Elementary Series that has come out since I wrote this one!

    http://www.thehappyhousewife.com/homeschool/life-of-fred-curriculum-review/

    I have some very excited elementary age boys.

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