kitchen table math, the sequel: Life of Fred

Friday, April 2, 2010

Life of Fred

How is it that in all these years I have not encountered the Life of Fred series by Stanley Schmidt until today?
Some arithmetic books omit the sugar—which is like lemonade without any sweetener. They give you a couple of examples followed by a zillion identical problems to do. And they call that a lesson. No wonder students aren’t eager to read those books. At the other extreme are the books that are just pure sugar— imagine a glass of lemonade with so much sugar in it that your spoon floats. The pages are filled with color and happy little pictures to show you how wonderful arithmetic is. The book comes with 1) a teachers’ manual, 2) a computer disc, 3) a test booklet, and 4) a box of manipulatives. And they are so busy entertaining the reader that they don’t teach a lot of math. This second approach is also usually quite expen$ive.

We’ll take the Goldilocks approach: not too sour and not too sweet. We will also include a lot of mathematics. (Check out the Contents on page 10.) How many arithmetic books include both forms of the Goldbach Conjecture? (See chapter 17.) The reader will be ready for algebra after completing this book.


MiaZagora said...

We LOVE Life of Fred books!

TerriW said...

Life of Fred is very, very interesting. There really is *nothing* else like it. They have it at our local library, so I checked it out, expecting to be underwhelmed and dismissive. And I wasn't.

My only unfortunately here is that the books don't start up until fractions, and we're not there yet. I'm very interested in giving it a test drive on the side of our other materials, just to see how my real-world student responds to it.

Catherine Johnson said...

I've never heard of these books!

Catherine Johnson said...

I may have to order the advanced algebra book.

Of course, seeing as how I'm going to be studying ALEKS algebra 1 for the next decade, maybe not.

Catherine Johnson said...

I need the statistics book, too.

I have years of work ahead.

Must earn a living AND learn algebra 2, trig, calculus, and statistics.

Crimson Wife said...

My only unfortunately here is that the books don't start up until fractions, and we're not there yet

Same here! Most of the folks I know who use LOF start the series after Singapore 4B. My DD is about halfway through 3A so it'll be a bit.

CassyT said...

TerriW said...

They have it (Life of Fred) at our local library...

It never occurred to me that we might have a copy at the library. And we do, even here in little Fort Collins. Of course I had to place a hold on it because it's checked out...

FYI- While digging through the CSU library for some miserable book my 9th grader chose for Biology, I came across an entire 8 shelves of k-12 school curricula. They have copies of Everyday Math and Investigations stuck in with Social Studies, Science and literacy curricula.

Bet I could find even more over in Greeley at the UNC Ed School.

VickyS said...

More from Life of Fred, this from the book on decimals and percents:

"At the end of every five chapters is The Bridge, ten questions reviewing everything learned up to that point. If students want to get on to the next chapter, they need to show mastery of what has been covered so far. They need to get nine or more questions correctw in order to move on to the new material. If they don’t succeed on the first try, there is a second set of ten questions—a second try. And a third try. And a fourth try. And a fifth try. Lots of chances to cross the bridge. Don’t let your students move on without showing mastery of the previous math. If you want to make your students pass two of the five bridges instead of just one, that is okay with me. At the end of the book is The Final Bridge, consisting of twenty questions. Again, five tries are offered."

And this:

"For now, students should put aside their calculators. This is the last chance we have to cement in place their addition and multiplication facts (which they should have had memorized before they began Life of Fred: Fractions.) I balance my checkbook each month without a calculator just to keep in practice. Once the students get to algebra they can take their calculators out of their drawers and use them all they like."

And finally:

"These Life of Fred books are designed to teach the material. They are not merely repositories of examples and homework problems. It is so important that kids
*how to learn
*from reading.
Once they finish college, they will face sixty years in which virtually all of their real learning will come from what they read. It is not a favor to the students for you to repeat what the book said. If you do that, it is a disincentive for them to learn to benefit from their reading. As strange as it sounds, you don’t need to teach the material. I’ve done that work for you. Relax. You can best teach by example. You read your books, while they read theirs. The best way for you to help is to check their progress when they work on The Bridges."

This seems like a whole different way of mixing reading and math, and if you ask me, and a quite intriguing one.

Who uses these books? Homeschoolers? After schoolers? These look amazing, really. Something to perhaps even use to cement topics like pre-algebra and algebra for my 9th grader and then move forward.

ElizabethB said...

Homeschoolers, mostly, some afterschoolers. Evidently he signs every book, so they are all autographed copies!

We're not there yet, either, we're in Singapore 2B.

VickyS said...

I have ordered "Pre-Algebra with Biology." I'll keep ya'll posted.

concernedCTparent said...

I ordered Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Geometry. I don't know if it's actually going to deepen learning, but I do know my kids LOVE it. They can't stop reading it and ask if they can stay up a little later so they can do the problem sets. What? We're still doing our core math curricula so this is just a bonus. It's the cherry on top!

They're excited about math (it's recharged their batteries), they're self-motivated about learning it, and they don't need me to teach it to them. They're completely self-sufficient and I just check their work afterward. When you're homeschooling 3 children in 3 different grade levels this is amazingly liberating.

Based on my children's reactions (son-10-Pre-Algebra) and (daughter-12- Algebra/Geometry), I'd say these books are already worth every penny. My kids love Fred and can't stop talking about him to anyone who will listen. They're begging me to let them do more math (on top of the other math they do- Brown & Dolciani, Singapore, and Saxon). So, I love Fred too!