Homeschool mom Jessica describes her favorite lessons from a series of hilarious math books for kids.
You’ve seen it on Educents, maybe on Facebook or Instagram, but you’re still wondering, “What are Life of Fred math books, and why is everyone so interested in them?” Life of Fred (some call it LoF) is a series of math books that are nothing like the textbooks you may remember. The Fred books are filled with adventure, humor, cross-curricular lessons, and everything needed for a perfect math resource.
Each book tells the story of Fred through various chapters. The stories are interesting; my children hardly notice the mathematical aspect of the lessons. At the end of each chapter, it’s “Your Turn to Play” and students are asked solve problems. Through a more traditional math course you’d expect 4+3=_?, but in Life of Fred, children are asked 3x+4x in the first book! And, it’s not difficult for students to solve. The elementary series assumes your child hasn’t had any math instruction, so it’s appropriate from the start.
Elementary Series Overview
The elementary series includes 10 books. Each book incorporates the title in the story; in Cats, for example, students learn that the “kitty” Fred adopts is actually an escaped tiger from the zoo! Or, in Dogs, Fred ends up moving 30 dogs into his office! In Apples, students learn about Archimedes, obligate carnivores, deciduous things (like trees, teeth, etc.), and telling time. Also, Fred has the attention span of a 5-year-old, which works great for young kids. The books seem to detect when kids begin losing focus; as soon as kids start dozing off, Fred goes off on a tangent. Fred’s tangents often make kids laugh, and how often have you heard laughing during math lessons?
Intermediate Series Overview
In the Intermediate series, students continue doing algebra they learned in the elementary series, but they also learn to identify and build functions, what the smell of urine indicates, set theory, how to mathematically analyze logic arguments, and arithmetic sequences. Also, each book is filled with teasers about future books: “Name one solution for x3=64. There are two other solutions, but you won’t be able to name then until you have had the last week of trig.”
Before High School Series Overview
After intermediate math, the “Before High School” series teaches concepts including pre-algebra. Currently, I use two books from this series at the private school where I teach. One of my 12-year-old students arrived during the last two months of the school year and tested into Saxon Algebra. Rather than taking the drill and kill approach, we worked through Life of Fred Pre-Algebra. He learned everything a traditional pre-algebra course teaches, but he also learned biology and economics. He loved math! Unfortunately, he was 3 lessons from finishing his second Fred book when the school year came to an end. He begged his parents and they agreed he could come back during his summer vacation to find out how the story ends. That’s the difference Life of Fred books make!
Life of Fred doesn’t have tests and instead requires kids to “cross bridges” in the series. For example, imagine a river with 5 different bridges crossing it at some point. Students must answer 9 out of 10 questions correctly in order to move on to the next chapter. If students answer only 8 correctly, they simply move on to the next bridge. Students have 5 chances to cross the river. I’ve had students choose to do extra bridges because they want to know what happens next.
High School Series Overview
The high school math series includes two years of Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. The story of how Fred came to Kittens University isn’t explained until students get to Calculus. I’ve had students exclaim in the middle of class, “I can’t wait till I get to Calculus!” These students are truly interested in having fun! Also, I’ve used this curriculum with kids who have attention disorders and serious anxiety problems. They all enjoy this math.
College Math Series, Science, Etc.,
The Life of Fred books continue through college math with two years of Calculus, a year of college statistics, and a year of Linear Algebra.
The Life of Fred books put the fun back in math! Many of the students I teach are high school-aged and they hate math because they were taught math through traditional, drill-and-kill techniques. Sadly, the fun was taken out of learning. With Life of Fred however, the method focuses on enjoying the process of doing math and in return math is learned!
If you feel like brushing up on your Calculus skills, why not pick up a copy of Life of Fred Calculus? Recently, Life of Fred has added beginning readers (three sets total), high school language arts, and I’m currently reading Life of Fred Chemistry for fun. It’s entertaining and I just want to know how the story will end. I recommend it!
About the All-Star Blogger
Jessica homeschools her twin first graders and teaches math and science at a small private school. In her spare time, she maintains a blog (Parenting with Research), runs half marathons, and wishes for more sleep.
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