Life of Fred- Math Curriculum Review

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After reading a bunch of glowing statements and the Life of Fred Math Curriculum by Stanley Schmidt I decided to give it a try. About 1 year ago we purchased the first 3 books in the elementary set; Apples, Butterflies, and Cats. They were everything we hoped so we are working on adding a few books at a time to our collection. Maddy (age 7) has read the first five and has been begging to get the next one. We get ours from Educents, they have the best prices I have found.

**update Oct 27, 2015- We got the final 5 books and Maddy devoured them. She is now starting the entire ten book set again.**


Who is Stanley Schmidt?

Dr. Schmidt graduated college at age 21 and began his work as a High School math teacher at age 22. Over the next 2.5 years, while full time teaching, he achieved his Masters degree and then began teaching College classes.  After 11 years of teaching Stanley “retired himself” and soon after began writing the Life of Fred books.

Who is Fred?

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Fred first appeared as a chalkboard drawing when Dr. Schmidt was teaching. Dr. Schmidt used Fred to show real world examples of when his students would use the math that he was teaching. The longer he taught the more Fred appeared. Dr. Schmidt would tell his daughter about Fred’s adventures as they drove together. She told him that he had to write down these stories.

Fred is a 5 year old who teaches math. On each page of the Life of Fred book she encounters different real life scenarios where he must use math to solve his every day problems. Fred is fun, full of energy, and always thinking about new ways to use math.

How does Life of Fred work as a curriculum?

Life of Fred is a Math Curriculum that can take a student from basic elementary math all the way through College level Linear Algebra, Statistics, and Calculus. Life of Fred is not your typical curriculum with boring explanations, pages of practice problems and little to no real world application. Life of Fred is written as an adventurous story. Children are engaged and excited to see what Fred’s next adventure will be. Life of Fred does not stress the basic math facts, instead it teaches how to use these facts in real world scenarios. The books ARE a complete curriculum, but some students will need additional help in memorizing the basic math facts. A parent or educator will need to teach these students the basic facts with fun games or flash cards in addition to using these books.

One of my favorite things about these books is that higher level terms and ideas are introduced throughout the lower level books. Because the students are introduced to higher level terminology in a fun way early in their mathematical education they are better prepared to understand and execute these concepts as they reach them in the higher levels.

Where do I start?

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Children up to 4th grade:

The first set of ten books is designed to cover everything a child would learn in elementary school. Before starting your child should be able to count, add, and subtract up to the number ten. Dr. Schmidt recommends that any child 4th grade or below starts with the first book and reads through the entire 10 book elementary series. If the series is finished and the student is not old enough or ready to move on then simply have them read through again. Since concepts are taught through story and mixed throughout the books rather than taught linearly with worksheets each time a child reads through they have a better understanding of the concepts taught. Once a student completes the first ten books with confidence then they are ready for the intermediate books (Kidneys, Liver, and Mineshaft). These books are a bridge from elementary to fractions. Children ages 10 and older who have a solid grasp on the concepts taught in the first 13 books (addition, subtraction, multiplication, long division)  should start with Life of Fred Fractions, and decimals and percents. These books teach far more than just your basic fractions, decimals, and percents so even older students who have learned fractions should still start here.

Children 5th Grade and older:

Students who do not have a complete grasp on fractions, decimals, and percents, don’t like math, or have used any program up to 7th grade level should start with Life of Fred Fractions, and decimals and percents. Some students who have struggled in math may also benefit from going through the last few books of the elementary series as well first. They will then move into the Pre-Algebra set which includes Life of Fred PreAlgebra 0 with Physics, PreAlgebra 1 with Biology, and PreAlgebra 2 with Economics.

If your child has completed the Life of Fred Pre-Algebra course, or any other curriculum through Algebra then you should start with Life of Fred Beginning Algebra and Advanced Algebra. The Life of Fred books cover more Algebra than almost any other curriculum as well as teach it in a different order. It is recommended that your child start with the beginning book even if they have taken some Algebra classes in the past.

After Algebra a student takes Geometry. Once Algebra and Geometry are completed they are ready for Trigonometry. Trigonometry is a Pre-Calculus course. Next is Calculus, which covers 2 years worth of college level Calculus. If your student is aiming to pass a CLEP test this course will be sufficient to prepare them. Statistics and Linear Algebra are also college level courses.

In addition Dr. Schmidt has written Life of Fred Five Days. This book is full of puzzles using math that a student would encounter as a math major in college. Rather than being a curriculum this book is simply a fun sampler of puzzles for students who love higher level math.

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Life of Fred is so well loved in our home that the first 5 books have been read twice.

I hope this overview has helped you understand this curriculum a little. It is definitely not your standard math curriculum, and that is exactly why I love it so much! It is fun and engaging and my kids can’t wait to hear what Fred’s next adventure will be. They are already able to do simple math with me in every day situations, such as at the grocery store, thanks to Fred’s example. It may be a little scary to trust a curriculum without worksheets and hours of practice problems, but it’s working for us and I know it can work for you too! Even if you don’t feel comfortable using it as your one and only curriculum it is a great fun resource for extra supplementation on real world application of basic math principles.

Did you know that Dr. Stanley Schmidt has recently released language arts and beginning reader books? The Life if Fred beginning readers are next on my curriculum purchase list so stay tuned for another review once they arrive!