Life of Fred Math

Dear Reader,

I mentioned in my post on our homeschool plans that we have been using Life of Fred math and that I tend to get a lot of questions about it. So I thought I would do a post on it to share what our experience has been.

For those of you who haven’t yet heard, Life Of Fred (henceforth LOF) is a math curriculum that teaches through a narrative format. Basically, it  is the story of 5-year-old Fred who is a genius and is a math professor at KITTENS University in Kansas. You read a chapter about Fred’s life in which he uses math in (somewhat) real life situations and then at the end of each chapter is “Your turn to play,” section of questions and answers to be done by the student. There are two series. One is the more advanced series which begins with fractions, decimals and percents, and then pre-algebra and so on. This is the original series. Then more recently they have come out with the elementary series which is I believe 10 books titled in alphabetical order: Apples, Butterflies,  . . .up to Jellybeans. My oldest two children began in Fractions. The oldest is not in Algebra and the second is in pre-Algebra. My younger two are working through the elementary series and are in Goldfish now.

LOF says it can be a stand alone math curriculum though most people seem to use it as a supplement to their main curriculum. That is how we began. Now I would say we are using it alongside our other curriculum which is Math-U-See. The little two do both everyday. The older two can choose which one they do and usually alternate weeks.

The elementary series begins by teaching addition facts. My memory though is that it does not really cover the most basic ones like 1 and 2 pluses. So I would want a child to have some introduction to math before beginning it. They should know their numbers, including multiple digit ones and have some idea of adding and the simplest addition facts. I have been reading the series with my children and I would think this is the way to go with the elementary series. I have them write down the answers to the end of chapter questions and then we go over them. There are practice problems as one gets farther along but they are not many, maybe 5 or 6 at the end of a chapter and not in every chapter. So if your child needs more practice, you would have to supplement. When we started, my children knew how to add and subtract so we went through the first books quite quickly. We initially did 3 chapters in a sitting, then slowed down to 2 and now one. They love LOF. They always look forward to it, and there is no complaining. My 12-year-old read the elementary books on his own and still tries to finish his own work in time so he can come listen to me read it again to the little ones. LOF teaches many concepts which other math curricula leave out or save till much later such as sets. So I would always begin with Apples if you are doing the elementary series. If your child is up to fractions (meaning they know all the basic functions through division; this is the same order MUS takes the topics in though other curricula will differ), you could skip the elementary series all together.

The later series (which really came out first) has longer books which are designed to take a full year. They are include extra “bridge” problems every 5 chapters or so to make sure kids are getting th concepts. Pre-Algebra is actually two volumes, pre-algebra with biology and pre-algebra with economics. All Fred books dabble in other subjects from poetry to science, but these two are deliberate about it. One is supposed to do both. This would make pre-algebra two years long often since the books do get thicker and thicker. I have heard complaints that the economics book has a certain perspective which some parents find objectionable. So one might want to look into that before doing it, especially if you are on the more liberal end of the spectrum. I don’t think there is anything too controversial in the biology book but all the books do have  a very mild Christian bent. For example, there might be a passing mention of God as Creator.

When one gets to Algebra, there are other supplemental books with more problems and a plan for breaking the work down into chunks. Even though my son is in algebra, we have chosen so far to just stick with the main book. If he seems to need more, we may use the extras. But of course he is also doing MUS so he gets more problems there.

There is no question in our house that LOF is interesting and fun. The big question I think everyone has is will my kids learn math from it? I think that depends on your child. Many may need additional problems (though I think most curricula give far too many). My oldest has had no problems learning math concepts from Fred. He is a math guy naturally. My second is more verbal and artistic. You might think she would do well with this narrative form of math, but she finds it much harder to learn the concepts from LOF. For her, I think she needs to learn it and then use LOF for reinforcement and a different perspective. She likes me to read the chapters with her most of the time though sometimes she will do it on her own.

Those are my thought this far on LOF. Any questions? Anything I forgot to cover?


10 responses to this post.

  1. I think this is a great review of LOF. I think I must look at ‘Math U See’ for my 7 year old too though, based on what you wrote.

    I have to say, my son isn’t a huge fan of LOF but I think this is because it’s the only thing I require him to do. As an unschooler, he’s very free otherwise. But it’s only a chapter a day, weekdays, and we enjoy it when we sit down and do it together. I actually, despite the advice of the author to do so, don’t require him to write down the answers because he absolutely HATES writing and I don’t want to have a fight about writing or make him hate doing LOF because we’d fight about the writing. He does the things like graphs though. However, as he gets older he’ll have to do this more and more which is less of an issue if there are more calculations and less sentences.

    I must say, LOF doesn’t feel like a Maths programme and that’s why everyone I’ve come across who uses it supplements with another programme too. BUT, I think it’s a GREAT way to make Maths fun and relevant and very good at making kids THINK mathematically in a real, concrete way which will help them learn real mathematical concepts I hope. I highly recommend LOF. It’s not expensive either. We’re only on ‘Dogs’ but I look forward to the later books and seeing what they teach.

    Also, you are right, I can’t start my 4 year old on them, she needs a lot of grounding in basic maths first. I wish he’d do KG maths books too!


  2. Reblogged this on homeschoolingmiddleeast and commented:
    I love Nebby’s review of ‘Life of Fred’ (LOF). As a result of reading it, I am looking into ‘Math U See’ as a supplemental programme. So far I like what I see. I watched the 8 minute Steve Demme video on their website and their approach makes a lot of sense to me. I hate the idea of any workbooks but I have a sneaking suspicion they might be useful if they aren’t over-doing the practice and, gasp!, I guess that parts of them could be skipped in part/in whole whilst the remainder of the programme could still be very useful. Anyway, I have to look into the cost of it. I also like that it might be something fun to start with my 4 year old since LOF isn’t for kids that young (I wish the author would write a series for those kids just starting out. I’m sure it would be great!)


  3. I think MUS does work well with Fred since they cover the major topics in the same order. Since I wrote this post, my eldest told me he has been choosing MUS over Fred to do because Fred has gotten hard and confusing (this is the algebra level). But I am hoping that if he does more MUS, Fred will make more sense too. If not, I will go to reading his Fred with him.


    • I am SO excited about the possibility of doing the two together and very excited that I could now have something fun to do with my 4 year old that has a bit of structure because that makes it easier for me! When I looked at MUS’s instructional videos Steve made Maths so clear. I loved it! Thank you SO much for sharing your approach.


  4. […] Roberta at Letters from Nebby gives us some great ideas for math curriculum in her post Life of Fred Math. […]


  5. […] me to say the least! Recently, I read a post on a great blog I follow, ‘Letters from Nebby’  that discussed her use of ‘Life of Fred’ and another, quite different programme, […]


  6. […] have in the past used both Math-U-See and LIfe of Fred (see this earlier post on LOF) and will continue to use both this year, though in a slightly different way. I have one […]


  7. […] math. He did three math curricula last year: geometry, algebra 2, and linear algebra, all using Life of Fred as our main curriculum. In the past I have also had him do the test booklets from Math-U-See just […]


  8. […] whys or could reproduce her work out of context. So I am going to have her do algebra again using the Life of Fred, a narrative math curriculum which we love. She knows this now and is not pleased not to be […]


  9. […] am going to try having both kids use only the Life of Fred series for math. I may supplement with some Math-U-See if I see a need. The fourth grader will be doing […]


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