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Life of Fred Math Reviews

Life of Fred, written by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D., is a series of math books that are based on the story of 5 year old math genius Fred Gauss. Once children have mastered addition, subtraction and the multipication tables, they are ready to begin using Life of Fred, which carries the student from fractions through two years of calculus and beyond.

“In one of the Life of Fred books, Fred Gauss was born on the western slopes of the Siberian mountains. By the end of the eleven books, he is six years old. In his everyday life he first encounters the need for each new part of mathematics, and then comes the mathematics. Never again will students have to ask their perennial question: ‘When are we ever gonna use this stuff?'”

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(26 Reviews)

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  1. Life of Fred Math Review by Nada Scurto
    Grades Used: 6-9

    My gr’dtr is using “Freddy” as remedial math in hopes that the cartoon and ways to solve will be appealing to her. She feels very much like a failure, but the fault lies with her as she missed so much school from bullying and illness. She is actually very intelligent but refuses to believe it.

  2. Life of Fred Math Review by Faith
    Pros: flexible, funny, holistic
    Cons: somewhat disturbing world view, not enough intermediate books

    Grades Used: k-4

    I have used LOF with my son from Kindergarten through third grade. He just finished the intermediate series and the author recommends not going on to the next level until fifth grade, so we have to find something else for fourth grade.

    What I like about LOF is that it presents a lot of ideas for extending the lessons into everyday life. We often use the vocabulary words and find applications for the math concepts in our daily lives, so instead of math being a lesson we do once a day, it is a way of thinking about our world all day long.

    My son enjoys Fred’s crazy adventures and has started reading through the entire set again just for the story. I find Fred’s world a bit disturbing, however. It is inhabited by so many unredeemably evil characters. People are always cheating and deceiving Fred, who is only five years old, and no one really takes care of him. He’s on his own without any life skills. Even his friends don’t actually look after him, although they are young adults and could potentially protect him. Also, Fred never eats. I know it’s fiction, but as the mother of a child with problems eating and maintaining a healthy weight, it really bothers me that the protagonist of this book is anorexic and a chronic victim.

    On the other hand, it does provide us with conversation starters about health and nutrition, the nature of evil, Christianity (we are not Christian, but Fred is, and the author assumes that his readers are), as well as an interesting way to look at math.

    My son recently had to teach a subject to a group of adults and he chose math. He taught a concept that the adults were not familiar with, so he had to answer questions and go into quite a lot of depth to explain the concept. As I listened to him teach, I realized that he really understood the how and why of the concept and I was impressed. He’s good at memorizing enough to do pretty advanced math in the exercise books we use to supplement this program, but he only learns enough to do the problems. With LOF, he really understands it.

  3. Life of Fred Math Review by V
    Pros: Funny, entertaining stories
    Cons: Does not provide enough practice, not up the state standards if used alone

    Grades Used: 3, 5, 7

    I bought each of my kids a LOF book at the start of a new school year. My youngest thought the stories were very funny and we enjoyed going through the book. My other two were not big fans and we only went through a few lessons each.

    We are creative and do projects , games, etc. at our home, but really believe it’s OK to keep math traditional. All of kids like math and for us, we don’t need ridiculous stories to generate interested in it. Also, a downside of LOF is that they only come in hardback and are expensive if you end up not using them.

    I am a former elementary school teacher and am concerned with how popular these books have become. They are fine as supplements. But they do not provide adequate math instruction when used alone. I can only speak for my own family and I’m glad LOF has been beneficial to others. I would strongly encourage those considering using LOF as their family’s sole math curriculum to check state guidelines.

  4. Life of Fred Math Review by Kris Reichert
    Pros: life applicable, entertaining, rememberable
    Grades Used: 8th

    My daughter has always done well in math but we were starting to get bogged down and she was not grasping math as well. I switched to life of fred algebra and what a difference it has made. She says that she remembers what she has learned because it is more life applicable and enjoyable. It works well with my right brained child.

  5. Life of Fred Math Review by Cindy
    Pros: entertaining, great for kids who love to read silly stories
    Cons: needs supplementation, not a complete curriculum

    Grades Used: 1-2

    My son always claims he hates math but he begs to read Life of Fred. Of course, he resists the “Your Turn to Play” section where he actually has to do math. But it’s less painful than trying to get him to do worksheets (and it opens the door to supplemental math learning). He loves the silly stories, but I do not feel it is a complete curriculum. We supplement with some online math games and workbooks. I really like that the books introduce some advanced concepts to younger kids in an easy-to-understand way.

  6. Life of Fred Math Review by Jodi
    Pros: Change of pace from traditional math, Affordable
    Cons: Answers location

    Grades Used: 4 Fractions

    I love the concept of a story that incorporates math. It is a great change, but I don’t feel that the LOF books are enough by themselves. We use it as a supplement and to change things up a bit. My only complaint is the locations of the answers. They are right after the “try it”, often on the same page. I cover the answers up with a taped note card, but wish they were at least in the back of the book. We will definitely buy more volumes.

  7. Life of Fred Math Review by Grace
    Pros: fun, thorough
    Cons: you have to prepare your own arithmetic drills

    Grades Used: 1st-7th

    I can not rave enough about Life of Fred. My children and I absolutely adore these books. I agree with previous reviews in that the only problem I have is getting them to stop or slow down. I have to let the lessons kind of sink in at times or practice, but they just want to read more. The lessons are short but thorough, getting longer as they advance of course. The books are very high quality and meant to be used over and over with the work being done on separate paper not written in the book.
    I believe Life of Fred is a complete program if you use the books as intended with plenty of arithmetic drills and possibly flash cards. I do supplement a bit with grade level workbooks such as Mastering the Standards just to ensure the children meet our exceed expectations for their grade level in math and arithmetic, but I have never found them to fall behind at all.
    The elementary books are fun to do, we all love the story, and they get plenty of ideas about how math is used and how they may use it in the future. The elementary ages do require a bit of extra practice or drill however. Once you reach the larger books such as fractions or decimals, the program gets even better! We are now into pre-algebra and elementary physics. My oldest was so worried about moving into something with the word ‘algebra’ in it, but after chapter one she knew she was ready. Fred has helped her feel confident as math gets more difficult, and that goes a long way.

  8. Life of Fred Math Review by Erin
    Pros: Easy to read, engaging
    Cons: Lack of practice

    Grades Used: Apples-Edgewood, Elem. Physics and both Pre-Alg.

    The kids love it. It is written as a story, so if we don’t read out of the books for a day or so, we have to go back to be reminded of happened to Fred. Fred is a dinner table conversation, almost everyday. With four kids reading Fred, they all have something different to share.

    I do supplement with other practice math. The kids fly through the Bridges, but when asked to perform same material in more structured application (state testing style) there are some struggles.

    We will continue to use LOF, because the kids still love it.

  9. Life of Fred Math Review by Patricia P
    Pros: Engaging story
    Cons: It's hard to get the kids to stop

    Grades Used: k, 2, 6

    We’ve been using Life of Fred math for a couple of months now. What a difference! Instead of daily struggles about math with my sixth grader, now I have to pry all of my kids away from math. They love it.
    They all love to read anyway, and this way of learning just makes sense to them.

    My husband and I like that at the middle school level, the responsibility for learning is placed on the student – not the parent. We still check the bridges for our son, and if he struggles with any concepts we review them together. Other than that, he goes up to do his Fred lesson on his own.

    For my younger two, we do as the author suggests, and cuddle up together to do math. I disagree with another viewer that it’s not a complete program – it’s very thorough. I find everyday opportunities to reinforce what they’ve learned. They love that the author doesn’t talk down to them. He accepts that children are intelligent and interested in learning. My biggest ‘problem’ is that we’re covering the material so fast. I’ve already explained to my second grader that we’ll have to go back and re-do some books until she’s old enough for middle school math.

  10. Life of Fred Math Review by Tenessa Porterfield
    Pros: Funny, engaging, real life application, affordables
    Cons: Not enough practice.

    Grades Used: Apples (1st book)

    I tried a straight forward, dry traditional math curriculum with my daughter and she hated it. Life of Fred was suggested to me and she has loved every second of it. It almost teaches her concepts without her realizing she is learning anything. It is very, very enjoyable. We laugh and learn with Fred. It is a really unique learning experience and won’t be for everyone. Still, I highly recommend it.

    I felt that the practice problems at the end of the chapter did not offer enough practice of the concepts either introduced or reinforced and I bought a workbook (unrelated) to reinforce concepts she’s learning with Fred.

  11. Life of Fred Math Review by S Cordner
    Pros: Fun story, living math
    Cons: Not enough explanation

    Grades Used: 5th (Fractions)

    My daughter hated it. It is supposed to be a fully independent curriculum and she refused to do it on her own. I think in some ways the format confused her. She prefers straight up math. She moved through it well, but we gave up on it since she just didn’t take to it and it made more work for me.

  12. Life of Fred Math Review by Beth
    Pros: Living math approach, fun story, student should be fairly independent
    Cons: No teacher's manual; no extra practice in pre-high school levels

    Grades Used: 6th

    We got Life of Fred Fractions this year for our math-phobic child. I was hoping that the living math approach would work for her, and it really has! She LOVES her LOF book and will even read ahead in the story. I love that she is supposed to work through it independently and only come to me when she can’t figure something out. She and I have never done well together with math, and Fred has really built up her confidence. My only issue is that I wish we had a book of extra problems, like they have for the high school levels. She seems to have a hard time getting things into her long-term memory and I believe extra problems would help her with that.

  13. Life of Fred Math Review by Tawnee
    Pros: Fun (and easy) to read
    Cons: "feels" light - but probably getting more than we realize

    Grades Used: 1st

    We just started using the Life of Fred this year with the “Apples” book, the first in the series for elementary math. It feels “light” if you will, that we aren’t learning a lot, but I think I’m probably just not used to the concept of learning math in this way.

    Set up in story form, we utilize it as a supplement to our full curriculum and my daughter always asks for more. We got through it quickly and are ready for the next book.

    The story is silly, but the kids love it and don’t mind. It is probably easy enough for her to read herself as a 1st grade reader but to retain the math I read it to her. She likes that. She likes that the answers are on the next page and it challenges you to do some other areas other than math (ie reviewing days of the weeks, months of the year).

    It’s great and we plan to continue with the series as a supplement to our regular math curriculum.

  14. Life of Fred Math Review by Tricia Soderstrom
    Cons: Not enough explanation or examples

    Grades Used: 6th & 9th

    We started out our year using Life of Fred for our 6th grader and 9th grader. The stories are silly and fun, the girls enjoyed them but had difficulty with the lessons. There is not enough explanation or examples and when I would sit with them to help them I would have to read the chapter instead of just looking at what is being taught and being able to explain it. I also felt that the concepts were not dealt with long enough to give the student a good grasp. We switched to another curriculum before finishing the books. I would not recommend them.

  15. Life of Fred Math Review by Jan Lance
    Pros: inexpensive, funny, plenty of review, applicable to real life
    Cons: can't think of any

    Grades Used: 7+

    We found life of Fred last year and my daughter did fractions and decimals and percents. This year she is doing Algebra 1. In her words ” I don’t really get ANY math, but it’s way better than saxon!” My son is working his way through them now and loves the conversational style and explanations of real math. I would recommend these for those who struggle with math, at the very least my kids have relaxed and started to enjoy it!

  16. Life of Fred Math Review by Stephanie
    Grades Used: 1st & 2nd

    My 8 & 6 year old boys look forward to Fred & Kingie stories! It shows how we use math everyday…counting steps, counting stars, time. It has SO many hidden treasures that could easily be skipped over if one goes too fast with their studies (typical just trying to get through….well, stop & smell the Fred ROSES!)
    Just a fun, quirky & full of random information book- including MATH!!!

  17. Life of Fred Math Review by JohnneO
    Pros: story form, very interesting
    Cons: none yet

    Grades Used: Decimals and percents

    This has been a God send for our daughter who loves words but hates numbers. She absolutely loves the story form and actually understands and loves math. She likes the way that it challenges her to figure it out on her own without the step by step process. Great for the right brain learners that love to read. Not recommended for the ones who have trouble reading.

  18. Life of Fred Math Review by Anastasia Heder
    Pros: Brilliant, engaging style ignites the readers love of math!
    Cons: Zero

    Grades Used: 4-12

    There is nothing I can write that can fully explain my esteem for these :Life of Fred” Math books. The series used in the order prescribed by Professor Schmidt is a complete and thorough math curriculum that will enhance any students life skills and understanding of mathematics. I have been bowled have my three children. My kids (and myself) have learned to love math! That says it all.

  19. Life of Fred Math Review by Kelli
    Pros: interesting and understandable
    Cons: none yet!

    Grades Used: 8th

    My daughter is in 8th grade and we used Abeka from K – 6th. 7th grade we found Teaching Textbooks which were better than Abeka.(my daughter struggled greatly with math, the concepts were confusing and she had a very hard time connecting them to real life or story problems). She liked TT better than Abeka and understood it slightly better but the TT Pre-Algebra was still a big struggle for her–tears and all. I stumbled across Fred and thought–well for that price we’ll try it and add it on to TT -maybe it will help. After a few weeks in the Fractions book ( I wanted to make sure she had a good foundation) I sold our TT and since Oct. she has been through Fractions, Decimals and Percents, and just finished Pre-Algebra with Biology. I gave her the option of moving on to Beginning Algebra after Decimals and Percents but she CHOSE to do more Pre-Algebra because she enjoyed it and wanted to make sure she understood. That in itself is a miracle!!!!!! We will do Pre-Algebra with Economics over the summer so that she can get 1/2 a credit for Economics for high school 🙂

  20. Life of Fred Math Review by Becky
    Pros: The story form is very engaging.
    Cons: There is not enough clear explanation.

    Grades Used: Beginning Algebra

    Although my son loved the book, and has read it cover to cover at least three times, the actual math part has not been clear enough. I tried letting him do the book independently, but with the answers right there it was too easy for him to copy the correct answers without actually understanding what was being taught. After that, we started over with the answers covered, but a lot of times the answer section is where you find out how the problem was to be worked. Problems are given in which the method to solve them has not been explained. I find it very confusing, as does my son, and I have always been good at math. There is not enough instruction, the student is expected to figure it out.
    The author does do a good job of review. Previously learned material reappears on a regular basis.
    I have ended up going through the book ahead of time to figure out what is coming up and then finding videos and worksheets online to reinforce what he is supposed to be picking up in the lessons. It has been extremely frustrating. At the beginning of the book, the author suggests that moms need to step back and have the child reread the section until he understands what is being said, but that type of approach does not work with my child.
    I would not recommend using this as an independent study program, unless your child is the type who can figure this out on their own. I would also make sure they show their work. I was very disappointed in this purchase when we actually started using it for school.

  21. Life of Fred Math Review by Felicia Alvarez

    I messed up and forgot to click the stars! So the average is going to be skewed, but I also give it all fives.

  22. Life of Fred Math Review by Felicia Alvarez
    Pros: Fun, fast, not boring
    Cons: haven't found any

    Grades Used: Fractions; Decimals and Percents

    (Previously published in “The Teachable Moment”, a local homeschool group newsletter)

    Life of Fred: Math for the Reader
    A curriculum review by Missy Alvarez
    My oldest child loves to read. In fact, unless the television is on, her nose is usually planted in a book. While it is sometimes hard to tear her away for meals and chores and the like, I think this is a wonderful problem to have…until it is time for math. Somehow my brilliant girl has gotten it into her head that math is “hard.” Add this to the fact that it has no storyline and math becomes the biggest brain-drain on the planet for this child. That is, it was – until we discovered Fred.

    Life of Fred is a series of math books created by retired college math professor Stanley F. Schmidt, PhD. Its emphasis is on learning by reading. The entire series of books (eleven in all) centers around the life of a five year old child prodigy who teaches math at the fictitious KITTENS University. By the end of the series, Fred has turned six and your child has mastered mathematics at the college level, including the equivalent of two years of calculus, statistics, and linear algebra! In each chapter, Fred runs into a situation requiring the use of a math concept and, in this context, the reader is introduced to its function. This is followed by a short section entitled Your Turn to Play, in which the concept is practiced and previous material reviewed. After five or six chapters, there is a cumulative review called The Bridge, after which the story continues.

    When I ordered Life of Fred: Fractions and it arrived, my daughter devoured it from cover to cover. I should have gotten to it first, it seems, because there is a section at the front addressed to the parent indicating that some children might be tempted to do just that. The goal, however, is that the student take the time to work through the questions before advancing to the next chapter of the story. This is important not only for the sake of cementing the math concept in the mind, but also because additional information is sometimes given in the Your Turn section. Each new chapter then, is a reward for completing the questions at the end of the last one. The books are designed to be self-teaching, with no need for anyone to interpret the information for the student. In fact, it is suggested in the second book – Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents – that the student do the reading and questions on his own and the parent simply check over the answers. That isn’t a satisfactory arrangement for my social ten-year-old, for whom math is the one time of the day when she has my total attention. So I read the chapter aloud to her and ask her the questions verbally. When she arrives at an answer, we check it against the process and solution given. This also circumvents the temptation to simply read the answers, which directly follow the questions.

    This series is fantastic! The books are well written and funny, easy to use, clear and concise. And not least in importance is that they are inexpensive. The first two volumes are under $20.00 for clearcoated hardback non-consumable books with stitched pages. I intend to use these books with all three of my children and they seem to be built to last. If there are any drawbacks to using Life of Fred books, I have yet to find them. Some might feel that there should be more practice questions included, and at some of the higher levels there is a companion
    book that meets the needs of such people. But we have found the format perfectly balanced: just
    enough practice to really “get it,” and not so much that it gets tedious. Only once have we had to go back to a previous lesson to review a partially forgotten concept. And I never hear any more the once common refrain: “I hate math!”

  23. Life of Fred Math Review by korin mattei
    Pros: The method of teaching the math in context of the story makes the math more relevant, funny, and enjoyable. MAth does not get groaned about abymore. Can teach both my kids at the same time. Should be independent. Repeats many concepts in "your turn to play" section, keeping the skills fresh.
    Cons: Doesn't "feel" like it is enough, even though it probably is. Some people might not like his writing style.

    Grades Used: Fractions, Decimals & Percents, Pre-Algebra with Biology (4-6)

    I have been so happy since we found Fred.

    We have been slogging through Singapore for years, which has been wonderful, but far from joyous or interesting. It has just been MATH. When I bought the first Fred book, my sons took turns on who would read it in bed at night. I began being pestered to do Fred a our first lesson of the day. Before I knew it, we would do at least one chapter (I read it and we do the problems on the whiteboard) then do a Singapore lesson, so we doubled our math work in half the time.

    I also know that they are learning math in context, albeit a strange context, and not in a vacuum. The goofy story and rabbit trails are enjoyable and help remove the stigma math so often has of being 1. hard, 2. REALLY important 3. confusing.

    The chapters are laid out with problems and answers together. Some of the questions are explained better in the answer section than in the chapter. He lays out the steps you should have taken, and if you look at them, you can see what is going on…in case you were confused. He then has a section every 7 chapters or so that is called “The Bridge”. In the Bridge the kid is given 10 or more problems where they need to get so many right before moving on to the next chapter. there are 5 tries per Bridge. The answers to these are in the back of the book.

    Overall, I appreciate being able to have such a resource available. My kids adore it, and it makes our day go more smoothly. I bought the Pre-Algebra 2 w/ Economics book for Christmas and put it under the tree. The kids were SO HAPPY! Really! They hugged a math book! Bizarre. 🙂

  24. Life of Fred Math Review by Lois Tebo
    Pros: My 13-year old son LOVES Fred. The humor keeps us giggling, and my son actually looks forward to seeing what comes next. He is willing to do the work, in order to keep up with Fred's life.
    Cons: In some cases, it is easy to get caught up in the story and miss some of the math steps, but so far a careful re-reading has kept us on track.

    Grades Used: 7th and 8th so far

    We “check in on Fred” daily. Fred’s life provides lots of challenges which he solves with math. The lessons are pretty self-explanatory, and students are encouraged to read them on their own. My son has become more independent in carefully reading the text. We have done the Decimals and Percents book and are now working through Beginning Algebra. The author has also completed 2 pre algebra texts that integrate biology and economics. The texts are very inexpensive!

  25. Life of Fred Math Review by JulieCC
    Pros: humorous; novel-like instruction
    Cons: not for a step-by-step learner; not a full math program

    Grades Used: all

    Life of Fred is a very novel way of teaching math through a humorous “novel-like” way of teaching – through story. It is very good for a visual & abstract learner. The stories from Fred are hysterical. My son practically sleeps with his LOF books!

  26. Life of Fred Math Review by Luanne Riley
    Pros: The math comes in the process of a story that displays the need for math
    Cons: It is based on a story, so reading (or being read to) is necessary, but the lessons are short so it's mostly painless

    Grades Used: Fractions, Decimals and Percents, Beginning Algebra, Advanced Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry

    The story is silly and unrealistic (a 5 year old math professor?), and that might put off some more serious-minded or literal students. My sons have enjoyed the absurdities and not only learned the math but learned to see other applications because they aren’t simply applying formulas but are actually grasping how the process works.

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