Life of Fred is a unique math curriculum published by Dr. Stanley Schmidt. I have used the Life of Fred books for years on and off with my two oldest children and still use them for upper level math courses.
When the Life of Fred books first came out on the market, I wrote a review of the program back in 2008. Here is that review. Please remember that this review was written at a time when, in my opinion, everyone was raving about the curriculum, thinking it would solve all of their math woes with their math phobic students.
Life of Fred isn’t the miracle math curriculum that most people think it is. I think so many people say it’s fantastic and that it has solved their math problems–it sounds like a miracle. And when others hear these comments, they think it will solve their children’s math problems as well.
A Life of Fred Review from 2008
The Life of Fred books are just like any other math books, but they take a different approach. It is, in my opinion, better than most math books, but it is not perfect. To be perfect, it would have to have legs and a mouth.
Life of Fred sets up excellent word problems that make children think. In fact, the whole book is one word problem. So if your child has used Horizons or some other math curriculum that has mediocre other math problems then following up with Life of Fred will be really helpful.
The [weakness] we’ve seen: Life of Fred flies by. Sometimes the number of problems is just right. But when a child misunderstands the foundational information in the lesson being taught, it will make the following problems, not only challenging, but downright, frustrating.
This happened to my daughter with percents. She got decimals. And she got fractions. But she missed something with percents. (I know what that something is by the way.) So she is spending a little just working problems from a Spectrum workbook, only the problems she needs to reinforce what she’s missing. These problems will come from Spectrum 6 and 7.
After the Spectrum book, we’ll be going back to Life of Fred. ALso, to make the work meaningful to her, I’m incorporating math talk about percents in our everyday lives. It takes a little focus for me to do that, but I think that will make more of a difference than the workbooks. I’m doing this right now with my 5 year old and multiplication. He doesn’t understand multiplication at all. But yesterday, I introduced it with chocolate chips. So when he’s setting the table for 6 people and he has to get 2 glasses of water at a time, we’ll focus on how many times he has to get the glasses–3 times. Therefore 2×3=6.
Math has to be meaningful and in context. That is why Life of Fred is so good. It makes math meaningful and puts the problems in context. Most math books do not do this in a consistent way. They take individual word problems that aren’t related and throw them at the children. The child has not been drawn into the why of the problem and there seems to be no reason to do it. I totally get how frustrating that is…
Anyway, I recommend Life of Fred for anyone frustrated with traditional math texts, or if you just want a challenge for your student.
Now for a More Recent Review of Life of Fred
Since 2008, I’ve continued to use the Life of Fred books. In fact, my oldest child a, tenth grader finishing up Algebra 2, has recently used the Life of Fred books to supplement the Charlkdust Geometry curriculum.
After using them for a short while, she found that the explanations in the Life of Fred books have been invaluable. She now feels that she understands the material she has already learned much better.
And that’s where the Life of Fred books are exceptionally strong. For a child with a verbal bent, those books make math meaningful and clear. And I still recommend them for that purpose.
For the math loving student, the Life of Fred books would probably suffice as the main math curriculum. For my children, so far, that hasn’t been the case. As for the content, the books are excellent and fun. Fun is underrated.