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Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom
If you’ve been homeschooling for long, you may have run across a math curriculum called Life of Fred. All of a sudden it seems to be taking the homeschooling online world by storm!
Here’s a short description of it:
“Life of Fred is a series of math books that break the old pattern of drill and kill. Instead of nothing but dry exposition and endless exercises, they contain fun stories about Fred Gauss, a child prodigy math genius.
During his hilarious adventures, he encounters natural situations that call for solving math problems. Children actually want to read these books!”
I first mentioned Life of Fred on this blog back in 2012, and what I said then I still agree with:
What I like about Life of Fred
I had heard such wonderful things about Life of Fred for high school math students that I was thrilled when I heard the author had completed a series for elementary-aged kids.
I love the way the math is naturally integrated into Fred’s life, showing the importance of it in day-to-day life:
The chapters are laugh-out-loud funny and I often get asked to read “just one more.” Each section in the elementary titles ends with a series of questions, followed by the answers to check after you turn the page.
I’ve never been a huge fan of math workbooks and worksheets, so the combination of math and story is a major win in my books!
We have the entire set of ten elementary Fred math books as well as the intermediate math set of three. The math program goes all the way up to college prep math and a new title also covers chemistry.
Recently the author has branched out into Language Arts and beginning readers for littles!
I find my kids even pick Fred off the shelf just to read for fun. What other curriculum can you say that about?!
As I’ve written before, Life of Fred is also an excellent choice for those who would like to approach math differently, but live in a state that requires you to document your instruction.
The cheapest place to buy Life of Fred
One of my favorite aspects about Life of Fred is that, unlike many math programs, it is not consumable. Therefore the sturdy hardback books should last through as many children as you have!
The cheapest place I’ve found Life of Fred online is through Educents, a site offering daily deals on homeschooling and educational resources. I bought my first few Fred titles elsewhere, but since then I’ve taken advantage of the savings from Educents when I need to order more.
If you’ve been interested in/curious about Fred, stock up now and you’ll be set for years to come, for all your kids!
Have you used any Life of Fred titles in your homeschool? What has been your family’s experience with it?
We absolutely love life of Fred! My kids ask for it if we miss a chapter for a day or two.
That’s so great, Dawn!
My kids had no interest in this curriculum at all. They love stories and love to read, but this one made no sense and Fred was too strange for them to relate to at all. I was also unhappy with the ways in which he pushed his not-so-subtle agenda in the content. As a math series, I found them weak and not sufficient as a stand-alone curriculum. We have been using Beast Academy instead and the kids can’t get enough.
I’m glad you left this comment, Sam, because I think it’s always good to keep in mind that nothing will be a perfect fit for every family. I will check into Beast Academy, too, which I haven’t heard of!
We’ve used Life of Fred and while I agree that it is entertaining and fun( and strange), it’s not enough on its own. We’ve also tried Signapore Math, Beast Academy and Math U See. Currently using Math U See for 11 yo and Beast for 9 to. Beast Academy is great -kids love the graphics and its very challenging!
Jamie, we actually love both Fred and Beast! You should definitely take a look at Beast as well.
We love LOF! I actually just read that cats chapter (about communitive properties) on Friday! We used Apples and Bananas (the first two books) as my daughters kinder curriculum and she tested in Saxon 1st grade at the end of the year! We are continuing to use LOF this year, maybe one day we will have to supplement but for now we love Fred! My daughter isn’t reading yet but her reading comprehension is really high when read to, which I think is why Fred works so well for us.
We really like Fred here. Math is subject that overwhelms me a bit, so I’m grateful to Fred for making it a little less intimidating!!
I have an awesome Life of Fred story. My daughter was home schooled only through highschool. She was so deficient in math when we started that I had to stop the LOF Algebra that I had planned to use and go back to basics….waaaaay back. She was discouraged (and so was I), and I questioned her compatibility with LOF. We both felt we were “loosing the year” with nothing but review. Looking back now, I laugh at the pressure I put on myself! The following two years, she INDEPENDENTLY worked her way through three LOF books and completed high
school . She just took her placement test for Community College and she did a wonderful job. No remedial classes needed! She was so proud (and so are we) and I am so greatful for LOF. My daughter will be working as a Certified Nursing Assistant while she pays her way through Nursing school, and she is really ready for all of the math classes that she will need to get her BSN. I just wanted to post in case there is anyone questioning if Fred really works because its not a drill program. We are living the proof that it really does!
What a cool story, Angie! Thanks so much for sharing, and congrats to your daughter!
We have all of the Life of Fred math books from elementary through advanced algebra and the high school Language Arts set. My kids love doing math now, and it brings a lot of extra cuddle time because the younger kids and I take turns reading the chapter aloud together. Right now, we have children using Apples, Dogs, Jellybeans (which will be finished tomorrow), and 2 kids using Decimals and Percents. We’re also using Language Arts again this year. I will add, however, that schoolish children may not like this series. My 16 yr. old prefers to do her schoolwork the traditional way, so she actually prefers the “drill and kill.” Go figure. We will be buying the readers next. Can’t wait.
I also have a drill and kill kid. Fred is not a good fit for him because he just doesn’t feel like he’s getting the rigorous math training he wants. I’m relieved to know that mine isn’t the only one who actually prefers their math straight up and bone dry!
We started with LOF last year for my 1st and 3rd grade boys. I didn’t feel like it was teaching my kids and they did not do well on grade level diagnostic tests so we switched to Teaching Texts and LifePac. We still read LOF because they enjoy the stories and it doesn’t hurt to reinforce math! We are in the middle of Dogs. I’m not thrilled with some of the adult content or situations Fred and Kingie get into but I read ahead and modify the story to something more appropriate for my family.
I actually just ordered my first Life of Fred last week…my stand-by math curriculum (that my oldest LOVES) is just not working for my little guy. He’s quite creative and loves analytical thinking, but sitting and drilling through math problems is NOT his thing. I CAN’T WAIT for it to arrive in the mail!
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I love LoF for elementary, but once math starts to get more difficult (around 5th grade), I find that there isn’t enough explanation, step-by-step instruction and yes, drill for middle years. My 14 year old son is still doing LoF Alegbra but has had many times where the books literally provide no explanation of how the math is actually worked, and he has to figure it out on his own. Which isn’t all bad, but super frustrating when math should be taught incrementally. But yeah, for elementary it’s lovely. Some things do need to be memorized in my opinion. Nothing wrong with a little drill so that the answers come quickly and readily to mind so the higher operations are easier.
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I agree about the memorization. Isn’t that what the fact cards you make in Honey are for?
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My son just finished Ice Cream. And he also now knows his multiplication tables. All from Life of Fred.
I actually found the same problem with the elementary books. The explanation for addition with carrying was just “here are the steps, now you do it.” That was not nearly enough for my daughter and I was honestly shocked to find this in such a highly praised curriculum. That’s when we switched to Rightstart. It’s still lots of fun, but actually explains things.
I also really dislike the demonizing of sugar and the fact that Fred never eats. Eating disorder, anyone?
Fred is a big hit with my son (9)! It’s our bedtime reading and if I leave him alone with it, he’ll finish an entire book in one sitting!
We also use Beast Academy for math. Intense, but fun and a great way to look at math in different ways. 🙂
Life of Fred makes math fun! I’m transitioning my first-grader from Singapore to Life of Fred because it suits her learning style nicely. Singapore has worked well for my oldest so I see no need to switch primary curriculum, but it’s a nice supplement. We did the Fraction book this summer, and I was pleased by how challenging the problems were. Another selling point is the texts hold their values. If you buy it and don’t like it, you can probably recover nearly all your purchase cost!
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Our library has Life of Fred. Yay for free homeschooling resources!
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Wow, that’s great, Steph!
Lisa @ This Pilgrim Life
A friend was just encouraging me to check out this curriculum yesterday. She loves it and said I shouldn’t wait long to start it. My eldest is starting his first year of homeschool this year. He’s five and we are planning to follow the curriculum I purchased from My Father’s World for kindergarten. You may not be familiar with MFW, but generally, what age would you recommend introducing Life of Fred?
Thank you for this post and any more helpful advice!
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I think it’s usually recommended for 1st grade and up, Lisa. Hope that helps!
This looks interesting! I loved math as a child, so it would be exciting to find a plan for my daughter to find a love for math also. 🙂 At a glance it looks like it started at kindergarten? I may look around to see if there is anything available for the preschool age.
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Emily, I’ve written a whole series about math and in it I mention a lot of resources that would be good for your daughter’s age! You can check that out here: http://simplehomeschl.wpengine.com/math-books/
We love Life of Fred. My middle son was very very hesitant to do any math and struggled ALOT. Last year when he was 11 we began Life of Fred Apples. We did a couple chapters a day for the past year and just finished Ice Cream last Wednesday. He now knows his multiplication tables, can multiply 2 x 2, knows long division, can count back money. In other words he has improved about 3 grade levels in one year. By the end of this year I expect he will be at grade level if he continues to improve at his current rate. I have no reason to believe he will not. We owe this entirely to Life of Fred. We used no other curriculum. I did read each lesson with him. Some of the reasons this worked was he is a very verbal child. He hates repetition when he already knows how to do something and he enjoyed the story. Two of my other kids did not do as well with it and they use Teaching Textbooks.
Life of Fred: I have one child that LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, Life of Fred. We started with Life of Fred 7 years ago, with Fractions and Decimals and she completed all of the series that was written at that time through Geometry. My younger child just did not get Life of Fred. I tried and tried to help her with it, but she really needed a different approach to math. After trying many different math programs, she settled on Teaching Textbooks. It is so interesting to me that 2 kids from the same family can learn in such different ways. And I am so thankful that Life of Fred was available for my older child, and loved that Teaching Textbooks is helping the younger child. Also, thank you Jamie for reviewing different programs and sharing what works for you in homeschooling! 🙂
Question: Because it’s story-based, do you think this curriculum would be hard for an English language learner to use? Or do you feel like the combo of story and math would actually support language development, in addition to the math? Are there a ton of pictures to support the stories? Adopting an older kiddo, but need to start in elementary math and language!
We have all the LIfe of Fred math books up through Advanced Algebra and the 4 high school language arts books. Most of my kids love LOF, although my 16 year old son doesn’t like to read, so he uses a different algebra curriculum, and my 17 year old daughter prefers to just get her work done without the “extras” of having to read a story first. My 8 other kids simply adore Fred and his antics, and I love reading it with them myself!
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We started Life of Fred with my middles at the end of last school year. At first they were eye-rolling-are-you-kidding-me? But now they love it. The math lessons are spot on for practicing what they need to learn and it’s fun for ME too! We’ve integrated it into our “Morning Time” routine, where we end with a Math-ish activity every day (math dice, flash cards), and I think it will be their favorite.
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My son is a reluctant math student. We just started using Life of Fred and he loves it! I can’t believe that he actually wants to do math now!q
We love Life of Fred! My older daughter started really disliking math, but now that we switched to LOF, she’s interested again. She needs extra practice, so I’m ordering the “Key To” series for her to work on here and there.
My kids LOVE Life of Fred-the only problem is they love reading it like a storybook, and don’t do any of the maths in it! But I still think it’s a great series for injecting a bit of fun into maths and showing practical applications.
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