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Talk me out of Life of Fred


vikingmom
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I have read a lot of good things about Life of Fred and am considering it as a supplement (or core) for my very right-brained 3rd grade son. However, before I plunge in, I was wondering if anyone has experienced "cons" or challenges with using this curriculum or if anyone absolutely does not like it, and if so, why? I'm not even sure that I am asking the right questions:-) But if you understand what I'm after, please (kindly) tell me why to or not to use LoF:-)

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I think that the fractions book is the worst math book I've ever used (and the others weren't very good either). It is algorithm heavy and concept light. There is very little practice. As you move along in the series, you'll find that the author has all kinds of opinions that he loves to share as "facts." It got so bad in the economics book that I stopped using it altogether.

 

My son, on the other hand, loves Fred.

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We use it as a supplement. I think it expects the child to infer how to do things more than actually teaching things. I love it as a supplement, but would hate it for that reason as a primary math text. My kids don't do so well with inferring math. They need it told to them in simple terms.

 

But as a supplement, I like it that it's a little vague.

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He gets preachy sometimes. We've only used the elementary books so far, but DD really enjoys them. They have worked well for us as remediation and now we're using Fred alongside Saxon--DD adores Fred and grasps concepts from it well, but needs more practice and repetition than it offers for things to stick.

 

Did I mention he gets preachy? It can be mildly irritating.

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I think that the fractions book is the worst math book I've ever used (and the others weren't very good either). It is algorithm heavy and concept light. There is very little practice. As you move along in the series, you'll find that the author has all kinds of opinions that he loves to share as "facts." It got so bad in the economics book that I stopped using it altogether..

LOL......I think EKS and I might be the only 2 posters on the forum with this opinion, but these echo my thoughts except I only purchased fractions and decimals. I definitely do not feel the love and thought the instruction was rather definitely algorithm heavy. My dd also didn't like the story. She thought Fred was rather dumb for someone who was supposed to be so smart for making the decisions that he did. ;)

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Initially, I thought I loved LoF. I've kept the books I bought, too, so there is still a part of me that wants to love it. My 7th grader is using LoF Beginning Algebra right now because he needed a break from MUS. I have reservations and keep asking him if it is okay; he keeps saying it is better than MUS and he's very happy with it. I worry that he isn't learning things in a solid fashion.

 

Pros: it's funny and fun. It's creative. I like the little facets of different disciplines thrown in. It's short. It's a nice break from your regular core if you aren't in a hurry. It's inexpensive.

 

Cons: If I don't understand something, I have no recourse for figuring it out. Not enough practice; not enough explanation in the solutions. I despise that the Algebra book doesn't give solutions to each and every question! I am not math-intuitive and I don't want checking his answers to be so difficult. Sometimes the author gives new information in the solutions. That seems like poor format to me.

 

In short, one wouldn't go terribly wrong to try it if not on a very tight timeline (i.e, catching up a student who is lagging in math). Strong readers/math phobics are likely to respond well to it, although my son who is enjoying it is not reading-oriented. In any case, it's not expensive, so it's not a terrible loss to give it a whirl.

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Follow-up question: so would you all recommend it maybe for elementary substitute (were using Singapore as core right now) but not beyond? Is there value in the story aspect of these books to make math less intimidating? Or would you consider it all "twaddle"?:-)

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i have never seen the elementary books. People who have kids who DESPISE math often like LOF because their kids enjoy the story and are willing to put up with the math. It does move very quickly. My older son needs more linear teaching, but Fred is fine as a review. My younger son is a pretty quick learner, but i admit, even he seems to be not totally 'getting' some of what we are doing.

 

Beast Academy is a very challenging program and is coming out very slowly, a new grade level seems to take more than a year, soright now there is only level 3.

 

I would think something really different, like MathuSee, might work?

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My middle and little did not like Fred. I thought LoF might be a fun supplement and I thought the stories were cute. My boys wanted to know why they had to read a short story in order to do their math. It turns out that they didn't add to understanding, but just added to the load. They were not interested. My little guy did enjoy Primary Challenge Math (no stories) and Penrose the Mathematical Cat (stories, told by a cat, covering topics not typically covered, but only a couple of application questions.)

 

HTH-

Mandy

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I initially got LoF Fractions to reiterate fractions to my dyscalculic son. He absolutely did not understand them. And by the end of the book? He still didn't get it. Lol. So I moved on and gave him MUS. He finally understood!! I am planning to have him work through Fractions again now that he has finished Epsilon to keep him fresh over the summer but in my opinion, LoF is absolutely only a supplement.

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It worked well for us as a supplement - we used Fractions, Decimals and Percents. When we tried to use Algebra as a stand-alone, the instruction was not explicit enough for my bright but not mathy son. We went back to Galore Park and he entered school in the top maths stream.

 

Laura

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Fred has been hit or miss in my house. My oldest, who did not find math easy in general, could not break into new concepts with Fred. That crashed and burned. But after he'd completed the whole fractions chapter in his regular math text Fred was a fun extra.

 

My second was a math inclined kid. She found Fred much too wordy, but every once in awhile she'd dig it out and play with it on her own accord.

 

My third, 9yo/4th grader, is a strong math student. He thinks Fred is hilarious and adores him. He can do a couple Fred lessons a day if he likes, but he still has to do his regular math lesson. (FWIW, he started with Fractions, not the elementary series.)

 

My 5 year old and I found LoF Apples at Half Price Books for $8. She hugged it to her chest and loved it before she'd done a lesson. *shrug* Over half the book later, she still feels the same way. I don't get it, but I'm not about to take Fred away from her. She does one lesson a day before her math book.

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LOL......I think EKS and I might be the only 2 posters on the forum with this opinion, but these echo my thoughts except I only purchased fractions and decimals. I definitely do not feel the love and thought the instruction was rather definitely algorithm heavy. My dd also didn't like the story. She thought Fred was rather dumb for someone who was supposed to be so smart for making the decisions that he did. ;)

Nope. We feel the same. I don't see the harm in using it as a supplement, but my mathy daughter HATED it. Echoing what some others have said - conceptually weak, algorithm heavy... and just not a core. I can't honestly see how he advertises it as such (unless somebody is using it as a core, perhaps, and HEAVILY supplementing elsewhere).

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My right brainer loved Rightstart. I switched him to MM for my sake bc/ I didn't want to take the time as a teacher that RS requires. He also loved Beast. MEP is more teacher intensive than MM but is excellent as well. My right brainer likes LOF (doing fractions now-age 10) but I would never recommend it highly for the reasons others have stated. I just thought he'd enjoy it for summer math work.

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We have the Elementary set and so far so good. The kids like it, I like it. He could have a better editor but the writing doesn't detract from the content IMHO. We are only doing Fred right now, we are changing things up for Summer. We'll go back to MEP/MUS as our spines in the Fall.

 

My favorite part of Fred is the random introduction of advanced concepts. Seeing advance Math notation doesn't phase my guys like it would a middle or high schooler, my kids are so young they haven't learned to be scared of the hard stuff :-)

 

I think Fred could work as a spine for a very dedicated parent, for the average parent the elementary series is best as a supplement IMHO.

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My little guy did enjoy Primary Challenge Math (no stories) and Penrose the Mathematical Cat (stories, told by a cat, covering topics not typically covered, but only a couple of application questions.)

 

HTH-

Mandy

 

 

How many books in this series? I saw 3 on Amazon. Is that correct? I like the price of these better than LOF.

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I gave the Fractions book to Dd to do a couple of summers ago. It was pretty much her first interaction with fractions (she had, of course, seen them, but she hadn't added/subtracted/multiplied/divided). It was a disaster. It took me a year to remediate fractions with her. She thinks she hates Fred. I think she'd like D &P as review, she isn't willing to try. I'm going to get the Fractions book out for Ds8 soon, but not until he has worked through some of the Key to books. I can't even say we'll get to it this summer. Ds still has two BA books and a CWP book to do this summer. I think he'd really enjoy Fred, but I'm gun shy.

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What does this mean: conceptually weak, algorithm heavy?

 

I'm not the one who said that, but I would take that to mean that it teaches children how to do the problem (the algorithm) but not why it works. So in the case of fractions, I would guess that it emphasizes something like cross-multiplying, but not why you do that.

 

I have not used LoF, but after seeing them and reading a bit of them, I knew they'd drive me crazy. They're just plain ugly. It's so bizarre to me that people talk about them as these wonderful, quality, hardcover books. Um, they look self-published. Also, the story just jumped all over the place. I get that it's supposed to be introducing lots of things and as a concept, I like that, but it just felt disjointed to me. I also admit that I was turned off by some of the author's personal viewpoints, which, as I understand it, don't surface much if at all in the books, but still.

 

I think, as Cara pointed out, many people put up with them because their kids hated math before LoF. And, obviously, some people love them and the randomness of the stories and the minimal practice actually works well for them.

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Follow-up question: so would you all recommend it maybe for elementary substitute (were using Singapore as core right now) but not beyond? Is there value in the story aspect of these books to make math less intimidating? Or would you consider it all "twaddle"?:-)

 

 

I haven't used Fred. I did look at the elementary books (A-C, I think) and found them unimpressive. If you're using Singapore, you've got a solid program. I would add in CWP, IP if you aren't using them or Miquon if you're at a level where you'd be doing elementary work with Fred.

 

I teach math at the cc and regularly see students who have seen the material presented before but end up in my remedial classes because they haven't done nearly enough practice to master the material. From what I've read about Fred and seen with the books, I don't think they have nearly enough practice.

 

There are a number of people who really like the program and for whom it works fine. It's not one I'd use from what I've seen....and that's without addressing the addition of his worldview (and the kerfuffle about euthanasia in Dogs).

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If you're using Singapore, you've got a solid program. I would add in CWP, IP if you aren't using them or Miquon...

 

I teach math at the cc and regularly see students who have seen the material presented before but end up in my remedial classes because they haven't done nearly enough practice to master the material.

 

 

Dana, I am glad to hear from a math-inclined person that Singapore is solid:-) I needed to be assured:-)

I'm going to change the subject here for a second (forgive me) but your experience brings up another question I have, this time about Singapore: Dana (or anyone else), would you say Singapore without the IP and CWP offers too little practice? I did purchase CWP 3&4 for next year, but have not considered IP or even EP... should I?

 

I also see a lot of people use Miquon and Singapore together... why is that?

 

I really like the Singapore methodology, but sometimes I need an additional/different approach to explain things. I am not very intuitive in math (I often latched on to algorithms in school without "getting" the concepts:-/) and that is why I started looking at LoF in the first place, hoping for additional mama-brain help:-) But it sounds like Fred will just feed my own weakness!

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Some of the CWP problems that my son has done in 4th and 5th grade are ones I couldn't give my students in Elementary Algebra at the cc. He's done problems that I'd use a system of equations to solve. I LOVE Singapore!

 

Again, I'm strongly in favor of "overlearning". There is a line and it can be tricky to find it between how much practice is necessary and how much is too much. I know I have covered material with my son that he's understood for a time but then without regular practice, he loses. He had it at the time...but he didn't have mastery.

 

I used Primary Math for 1st grade, then I made the switch to Standards for 2-5. I've been very happy with the Standards edition. I do think that there isn't enough practice on some topics with just the text and workbook (and the HiG). My son needed more practice especially in 3, I think, with multiplication and division....some in 4 as well. I did get the EP books, but they don't have much extra... definitely not enough - and it's just on the same level as the workbook. For 5, I got the tests to use instead of EP. Of course, that would have been the year he didn't need much extra practice!

 

I use the text, WB, HiG (doing some activities...as needed), IP (some of the work...not all), CWP (all), and iExcel (most of the book... now being replaced by Process Skills - really cool for setting up bar models & works great with Cuisinare rods).

 

Miquon does a really good job of going concrete to abstract. That's Singapore's approach as well. The C-rods that Miquon uses work great as manipulatives for Singapore. For math manipulatives, Base 10 blocks, fraction circles, Cuisinaire rods, and connectable gram unit cubes are essentials to me.

 

We did do a LOT more practice and spend a LOT more time on math than many people choose to. However, my son is now at a point where his foundation is very solid and I think we'll be able to fly as we hit algebra. I've been able to show him the algebra for what he's done with CWP this year & it's really cool. We aren't going to do text for 6... instead we'll do CWP, IP for 6 and move on to Elements of Mathematics and maybe Art of Problem Solving.

 

If you're looking for something additional to explain the why's, and your kids are young, Miquon will be a great fit, IMO. And reading the Liping Ma book may be really useful as well (based on the reports I've heard of it).

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These boards have been a tremendous resource to me. Happy to share!

You can also do some searches...there may be tags with Miquon or Singapore or just math.

I keep a word document with notes I get from the boards...makes switching if needed much easier and helps me keep a lot lined up as we progress.

 

Always keep in mind your child and what works for one family may not be the best for you.

I really have been pleased though with Singapore and were I doing it over, I'd have done more with Miquon as well earlier. We ended up using about half of all the Miquon materials.

 

Good luck to you!

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I finally decided to set LoF aside and not use it anymore. My ds has done the Fractions book, and this morning he couldn't do a simple fraction problem because he couldn't remember. My mistake for not doing more review which is not in LOF. So, nope not working here.

 

We were using it as a supplement. I'll find something else.

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I wouldn't call it a "curriculum" at all, though it's a cute supplement. We're not really moving ahead with these, though the kids wouldn't mind if we kept it up. They thought the books were weird and funny, but we can read a lot of books for FREE from the library that are weird and funny and even a little bit math-y. (like The Cat in Numberland, Math Curse, the Sir Cumference adventures and the really fun "Math is Categorical" series by Brian Cleary)

 

I liked reading them (we read A-C before I gave up), but found them very overpriced for what they were and I can't imagine how difficult life would be if you tried to use them as a spine for math. Others' mileage may vary, but that's my 2 cents' (Canadian!) worth.

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We started using Fred to supplement MUS, which DS *hated.* He loved to read and he loved silly, so Fred was perfect for showing him that math could be fun. We switched to Singapore Standards and use IP and CWP as well as Miquon, so I certainly don't need Fred hanging around anymore, but DS still loves him. I keep it around solely for that reason. When DS is ready to get rid of it, I will be. I think it was great for getting a math-hating child to calm down, but I don't think it's all that great as a curriculum.

 

Disclaimer: We've done Apples through Farming of the elementary series, nothing higher.

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My kids liked the story...at first. But then they realized Fred is only 5 yrs old, has no one looking after him properly, is nearly always hungry, has bad things happen to him all the time...and that was the end of Fred in our house.

 

That is one thing that I found sort of baffling in the story, even though it's obviously meant to be absurd humor. Why does he eat out of the vending machine? Why does he drink only "Sluice"? He eats a french fry or something and claims he's full. That's just so strange.

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I have such mixed feeling on LOF. DS loves it. I think he relates to Fred being 5 and loving math. But DH and I aren't pleased with the insanity of a lot of the story and the regular religious references. I don't know. I'd really prefer to find something else but then I see the value of a living math book that DS literally will read for fun and I'm not sure we really have any other options. For what it's worth, DS doesn't see these as "math" books. He thinks they're just fun.

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Fred has been our math spine this year. We have covered Fractions and Decimals and both PreAlgebra books. We supplement with Kahn, Math Mammoth and Real World Algebra.

 

DS13 is comfortable with math and so am I. We enjoy it, and I have picked up useful problem-solving techniques that I never came across in my own math-y education. I can see that it may not work well if the teacher is not super comfortable with the concepts LOF teaches rather casually.

 

Next year, I am thinking of pairing LOF Algebra with AoPS, including the videos.

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That is one thing that I found sort of baffling in the story, even though it's obviously meant to be absurd humor. Why does he eat out of the vending machine? Why does he drink only "Sluice"? He eats a french fry or something and claims he's full. That's just so strange.

 

 

Oh dear, while I suspect that my boys will find it funny, at least at first, his diet will torture me - humor intended or not! :-) Even if the mathematical content would work for us (which I have decided won't) this little detail will drive me nuts... and I am obviously nutty enough as it is (since small potatoes like this pushes my irritation button:-) Thanks for sharing some of the actual story content- I have not even wondered what the humor is like, but glad to have been given a glimpse into it.

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We introduced our very mathy DS to Fred for his fifth birthday (we thought he'd get a kick out of a five year old maths professor). It was love at first sight, and he has completed the entire elementary series and half of the intermediate series. For him, it is perfect, but DS is a maths whiz, so that may not be the case for everyone. Apart from Fred, DS has done Miquon (all of it) and Dreambox. His maths was recently assessed as extremely strong.

 

FWIW Icould take or leave Fred myself. I find it overly preachy at times (I believe that gets worse later on too), and we often do not share the world view of the author, but it is the source of much discussion (not just about maths).

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I thought we would love Fred at our house since my daughter loves to read. It wasn't a hit with her. She found the story line strange and upsetting at times. She didn't understand some of the math concepts introduced. And there was not near enough practice for her to remember anything from the books.

I found that the story distracted her from any math concepts. The mix of easy math followed by difficult and complex concepts was so frustrating to her. The amount of explanation did not work for her either. Many things went right over her head. She also didn't get any of the humor-which surprised me.

In the end we found them strange and not helpful in learning any math concepts.

I blogged about Fred here.

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If typos in self published books are a problem for you, I would pass on Fred.

 

If total silliness wrapped up with serious topics bother you, I would pass on Fred.

 

As for a kid going through a Fractions book and then not knowing how to do fractions a few months later, I would not necessarily put that all on Fred. I have been utterly amazed at the times my children have learned and practiced a major concept (with heavy conceptual training, rigorous practice!! MUS, Singapore, Forrester Algebra!!)), only to have it "disappear" out of their minds. I mean, really. Fractions, negative numbers, multiplying double digits and basic algebraic equations. I don't know why, but sometimes kids do forget.

 

If you really do want to try out Fred, just order a couple books because they will give a refund if you find out they are not a good fit. Maybe there is someone nearby that would let you have a look?

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I read LOF at the lunch table with all my kids. I bring my box of manipulatives with me and I give each kid a chance to work out each math problem /situation /observation that comes up in the story. It takes less than ten minutes and it gives the kids a different perspective on math (painlessly) . For my math resistent, book obsessed 7 year old it is a hit. It has taught her little sisters to tell time and see and hear a lot of math. Would it work as a core - not for us, but it has been a great way to sneak a little extra math in on a child that would otherwise meltdown at the sight of an extra worksheet.

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two comments - first, my teen came out of public school 7th grade with his pre-algebra teacher telling me I should put him straight in to algebra . ..and I discovered he did not know how to do math with fractions.

 

second - every time he mentions fred's terrible diet, the author also mentions that this is why fred is so small.

 

a lot of kids books have heros that are kids without any adult supervision. i think he takes it to an extreme, perhaps with the intent of subtly pointing out to kids how much their parents really do for them.

 

definitely not for everyone

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DD11 found the LOF books to be "too chatty". Too much story, not enough math. She likes math, is good at math, and is quite advanced in math for her age, but thought that LOF was a waste of her time.

 

I found most of the story-part to be obnoxious and a bit preachy. If I had a kid that liked them, I would probably use them as a supplement though.

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I just don't understand books like Life of Fred. I took a look at samples of it and didn't get it. I had the same reaction to samples of MC Thompson, too. Yikes. I am obviously missing something huge here.

 

My som really enjoyed books like Number Devil. There's a lot in that one and it's cheap.

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I was sure that my dd would love LOF. It seemed right up her alley: a good story, independent, a bit of a challenge.

 

She hated it.

 

She liked the story, but she said that the math was too wordy. She did the first two chapters of Fractions and refused to do any more (although she did read the whole book just for the story).

 

Tara

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I have such mixed feeling on LOF. DS loves it. I think he relates to Fred being 5 and loving math. But DH and I aren't pleased with the insanity of a lot of the story and the regular religious references. I don't know. I'd really prefer to find something else but then I see the value of a living math book that DS literally will read for fun and I'm not sure we really have any other options. For what it's worth, DS doesn't see these as "math" books. He thinks they're just fun.

 

 

Ditto this. I don't think the books are all that great, but DS loves them. So I'm just letting him go through them and love "math" for a while.

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