Life of Fred?

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Hi everyone,

I'm finally trying to take the plunge into classical methods in earnest, but we've used Khan Academy as our math spine for years now, along with Math Mammoth (just couldn't slog through it for some reason even though it's really thorough and good) and intermittent use of old Houghton-Mifflin Mathematics school texts.

DD12 is roughly 2/3 of the way through Khan Academy's Pre-algebra mission, but when I gave her a few tests recently, I saw to my dismay that she didn't apparently understand fractions, decimals, and percents deeply enough not to get caught or bewildered when given problems "off the hip" that didn't follow her familiar format.

Though I expected the Fractions book to be too easy, she stumbled on the Bridge Activities, and now I am considering having her go through it, as well as the Life of Fred Decimals book, before letting her move on, either to Life of Fred Pre-algebra, or else something else.

We'll keep the Khan (it has been useful for years, and helps me keep track of progress) but I am now looking at Life of Fred for my younger ones, too.

My question is, has anyone else found LoF to be good for remediating conceptual lack? And what do you use for procedural mastery, alongside it?

Everywhere I look for reviews on LoF, I see almost nothing but glowing testimonials, but what I want to know is, is it rigorous enough on its own? It doesn't include repetition or "practice" so what do those who need more than a bit of conceptual "aha" moment, do for that?

Does anyone have success or failure stories to share, with their use of LoF? Has anyone else transitioned into it after using other things, and how did that go? What has it been like for those who started off with Fred?

Thanks for any help.

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Success story:
My youngest is going through the alphabetical LoF series. He is picking up a lot and loving the 'remedial' math that is behind what he is doing. Rather than stressing over memorizing number bonds to 17, for example, he is picking up the "extra" - vocabulary like 'commutative', functions, and so forth.  He enjoys it and doing the problems each day because it's just fun for him.  We'll continue through until he gets to a stopping point.  I don't know if it's rigorous enough on its own.  I know that the ability to go back through is a huge selling point, but I would not recommend a child doing it on their own unless they are just really, really mathy.

Failure story:
My oldest started LoF as a pre-teen, with the Pre-algebra 1 book.  He was not impressed. We used it alongside MUS's pre-algebra which he took to well, but found LoF to be too wordy and bogged down to learn anything from.  He struggled with the bridges because he wasn't willing to dig for the answer at that age.  He chose not to continue on with the series after pre-algebra but went into AoPs instead, something that made him think, but stayed focused on math instead of bringing in a story to help.

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Personally we only found LoF good for review of concepts already learned elsewhere. If you look closely it's really only teaching the how and not much of the why. I don't consider it a conceptual.

I've only used parts and pieces of Math Mammoth and none of my kids, mathy or not, were very enthused. I had to make them finish the small topical books we tried. They did far better with Horizons (full course, spiral) and the Key To ______ series (supplements).

In that situation I'd find a paper prealg course and start her at the beginning with the option to test out of chapters if she already knows it well. For run of the mill public school texts I found the Holt math books by Larson to be very well done.

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I cannot recommend LoF as anything other than a fun supplement to cement already acquired knowledge of fractions, decimals, and percents. For that purpose, it's wonderful and engaging and a good way to get in extra practice without complaining. But for acquiring the concepts in the first place, no. If I were you, I'd go back to Math Mammoth and re-work through those concepts, since you already have it. MM has worked wonderfully for us, even though it's not necessarily exciting or looked forward to :lol:

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Everywhere I look for reviews on LoF, I see almost nothing but glowing testimonials, but what I want to know is, is it rigorous enough on its own? It doesn't include repetition or "practice"

If you search the forums (or use google and do "site:forums.welltrainedmind.com life of fred"), there are plenty of threads with negative reviews of LOF (or, people saying it's supplemental, or review only, etc).

FWIW, there are practice books for Fractions and Decimals & Percents now (they were added relatively recently):

Zillions of Practice Problems Fractions:

http://ztwistbooks.com/node/97

Zillions of Practice Problems Percents & Decimals:

http://ztwistbooks.com/node/98

Now, my oldest is only almost done with Fractions. He didn't really have issues until the chapter on unit analysis, and at that point I didn't want to spend the money for the zillions book, so I just found some more unit analysis/conversion factors problems on the internet. So far we do like Fred, but, again, we've only done Apples through Fractions (and still have 3 chapters and the final bridge left in that one at that).

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We use LOF as a second curriculum - not entirely supplementary, but not a stand alone either - we use Singapore also. My eldest child started LOF the alphabetical series at age 6 and is in Fractions now - she does struggle some with the bridges - it is not intended that they pass them on the first try. I think because your child has already learnt Fractions he is using it as a review and it should be fine for this purpose. I have used a lot of manipulatives and other teaching methods for fractions as my child is quite young to be dealing with the abstract concepts involved and she is kinaesthetic and learns best with manipulatives. My youngest is 5 years old and starting LOF dogs alongside Singapore.

Personally I would not like to use the elementary series without supplementation, but have heard that many have used the pre high-school and high school level (and beyond) books successfully without supplementation. Like any curriculum I think you have to take your own child into account - what will work best for him. What works for the majority will not help you if it is not what works for your own child.

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Thank you all, for the feedback I have received so far. It really does help me to put into perspective the one-sided "glowing reviews" I see online.

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We use LOF as a second curriculum - not entirely supplementary, but not a stand alone either - we use Singapore also. My eldest child started LOF the alphabetical series at age 6 and is in Fractions now - she does struggle some with the bridges - it is not intended that they pass them on the first try. I think because your child has already learnt Fractions he is using it as a review and it should be fine for this purpose. I have used a lot of manipulatives and other teaching methods for fractions as my child is quite young to be dealing with the abstract concepts involved and she is kinaesthetic and learns best with manipulatives. My youngest is 5 years old and starting LOF dogs alongside Singapore.

Personally I would not like to use the elementary series without supplementation, but have heard that many have used the pre high-school and high school level (and beyond) books successfully without supplementation. Like any curriculum I think you have to take your own child into account - what will work best for him. What works for the majority will not help you if it is not what works for your own child.

Tanikit, I am looking for Singapore math and I see that there is more than one "singapore math" out there...there is MIF (Houghton Mifflin) which tempts me because I have always liked Houghton Mifflin's math texts and spelling and vocabulary for their clear organization and open-and-go ease, as well as thoroughness.. but when you say you use Singapore, do you use MIF, the Singapore math from the singapore math website, or something else? Thanks for your help!

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We use LOF as our main curriculum with Khan in between. My kids have really solid understanding of concepts, and prefer it to other methods. The boks move super fast, which works for my mathy kids. They HATE the repetition and don't need it. They are the kind of kids who make up math problems and quiz each other for fun.

Because the books move so fast, they finish them in about 6 weeks. That leaves plenty of time to work on Khan for practice, review and additional concepts and methods. Between the two, I'm very happy with results.

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We found it to be a very fun supplement.  I can't imagine using it as a stand alone or to remedy anything.  Maybe it could remedy boredom or help with a kid who hates math presented in a traditional way.

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I've been using the elementary series with my 4th grader this year. Obviously most of the "math" is WAY below her level, but before this year she was learning math entirely in Chinese, so the math vocabulary--and many of the concepts--just weren't there. She began using Khan Academy a few weeks ago, mainly because I'm nervous that LOF is moving too slowly and not preparing her to take the 4th grade standardized test at the end of this year. She enjoys both and I think she is learning. It's solidifying stuff that she had heard, but not understood, in the past.

About not being able to transfer math skills from one curriculum to another, I think that's pretty common. I grew up on Saxon, and when I casually looked up the placement test for the lowest level of Beast Academy recently, I almost fainted at how difficult it was for me! The only way I can think to rectify that is to combine elements of a few different programs, or switch programs each year.

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We use Life of Fred because it is therapeutic for DD's math anxiety.

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• 2 weeks later...

We have borrowed some of the Life of Fred books as supplements and enjoyed them. But I do agree that they should be used only as a supplement. If you are looking

for math like Khan, I would try Teaching Textbooks. Teaching Textbooks work your child through concepts with teaching "videos", automatically correct lessons, and the program keeps track of your child's grades. They are not as advanced as Saxon, but the program has made math much more bearable for my non-math kids. We use Khan as a supplement to prep for PSAT & SAT tests and for computer programing skills.

Teaching Textbooks start at 3rd grade and go up to Pre-Calculus. We have used Pre Algebra up through Algebra 2. Haven't ordered the Pre-Calc. yet. You can find

placement tests at:

sonlight.com -look under curriculum/ math and click on placement tests for Teaching Textbooks.

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They were mostly a waste of time here, I have a kid who got too caught up in the antics of Fred to really internalize the math. I kept trying it as his insistence, and I now just consider them relatively expensive works of fiction that my son really enjoys, but hold little to no value as a math curriculum.

(I have a highly distractable child, YMMV)

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