Jun 13, 2012

Is Life of Fred enough?

Life of Fred is a new math curriculum quickly gaining popularity. It is not only a great math curriculum, it is a lot of fun to read aloud. The main character has so many adventures that can lead into wonderful family discussions. Since it is so different from a more traditional math curriculum several questions keep popping up on homeschool message boards.
"Is the Life of Fred curriculum enough?" 
"Do you suppliment with other math?"
"How fast do you work through the books?"
"Where do you start?"

We have been using this curriculum for two years. I started Life of Fred with my 3rd grader a few months into the school year with Apples, the first book in the series. We began at the beginning because I wanted him to feel confident, like the curriculum, not miss anything, and not be too challenged at the beginning. It worked. He loved it! 

The author of Life of Fred suggested that each of the problems in the book were worked with pencil and paper before viewing the answers. I wanted my son to understand this without question, so we started this way right from the beginning. Along with writing out addition problems he could do easily, he wrote the answers to questions which required much more thinking. Questions like "If tomorrow is Saturday, what day was yesterday?", were some of my favorites. Since the book typically asked only one question per concept at the end of each chapter, this task was not repetitive or tedious.

Initially we covered about two chapters per day. Although much of the initial material was review such as addition and subtraction, he was introduced to new concepts such as sets, perpendicular lines, the word dozen, whole numbers, and substituting an x for a number in an equation (x+5=7). 

In the Goldfish book he reached a point when he became more challenged. We covered about three chapters per week and began working to memorize addition and multiplication facts. 

A weekly math schedule looked like this:

1. Read the books and did the problems, 3 times per week, about 1 chapter per day.

To memorize addition and subtraction facts we played lots of games. I found Black Jack 21 to be one of the best games. My Math Page has additional game and activity ideas.

3. To memorize multiplication facts we played Speed! I actually created this game and it is now available so other families can have fun while learning multiplication.

The game teaches skip counting by the numbers 2-9. Each deck of cards is for a different number. We played with only one deck of cards until he had the numbers memorized and could quickly recall them before moving onto the next deck. 

4. Finally, we tried to incorporate or draw attention to real life math that occurred within our daily lives. Cooking, quilting, measuring, laundry (money) and playing with math toys are some examples.

Our second year following Life of Fred was spent in the Fractions book. While I still was overjoyed that this curriculum explained the application of math, I do think some addition practice was necessary. Khan Academy was wonderful for supplemental practice. After taking a pretest, the student was directed to specific lessons. Once five questions were correctly answered in a row, the student moved on. It placed my son right where he needed to be and it's free!

So how is my son doing with this? Well, he took the California Standardized Test for third grade through Seton Testing and scored in the 90% in both math sections. So in my opinion, Life of Fred coupled with math fact memorization and a few real life math activities is enough.

Lastly, I would like to point out that the Life of Fred curriculum works great for my son, but I don't use it with my daughter. Although she loves the books and has read them all she is a different child who learns well with lots of repetition. She is also thriving in math (algebra in the 5th grade). This is the first year she used a math curriculum, as before we did activities, workbooks and concentrated on the math facts using the games mentioned above. For her we choose Math-U-See.

* I did not receive any compensation for the Life of Fred recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them.
** Highhill Educational Supplies is my company and we make the multiplication game Speed! I hope you purchase it and enjoy playing it with your friends and family.


  1. I have bought the life of Fred algebra book but we aren't quite ready to use it. i use Math U see for both my kids and really like it. but I do want to give the Fred series a try

  2. We have Life of Fred Apples and I bought some books for older students at a curriculum sale. I agree that it is a fun read-aloud! Thanks for sharing how you use it.

  3. I've been very interested in The Life of Fred. Your post has spurred me on to buy one of the books for my daughter. Thank you! :-)

  4. We have read the first two Life of Fred books. I think we need to jump ahead a ways if we continue. We did enjoy them very much. I agree that the books, combined with some of the activities you mention would totally be adequate!
    Thanks for linking up with Favorite Resources :)

  5. This was a great post and extremely helpful. I hope to implement many of the ideas you suggested. My daughter is getting ready to take the CAT through Seton too. She is going into 3rd grade. I just want to get a sense of where she is at.

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback. It feels so good to know this helped.

  6. Thanks so much for this review and tips.

  7. I have never actually heard of this program before but it certainly looks interesting enough to check out based on your review. Thanks! Stopping by from the Hop.

  8. I see this is an old post, but I enjoyed your thoughts on it. My 3rd grader has is finishing up the Dogs book. We started on Apples. She seems to get this more than any other math we've tried. I really thought Math U See was going to be the answer for her, but it didn't work for her. She was too busy with the colors of the blocks, it was distracting her. She couldn't do the problems with them, because she'd want the answer to be a color that went with the other colors better. LOL!

    Anyway, we do need to go back and review more before we move on to the E book. She doesn't want to, but she still has trouble on some of the basic things.

    1. That's interesting with the Math U See colors. My older daughter does well with Math U See, but I started her with the algebra books and we never bought the blocks as she was past that level.

      My son is still using Life of Fred and I do think it's the right program for him. He's in Jellybeans and it's much more challenging for him. I like it because it makes him think and figure out the math behind what's happening. For him that's essential because he doesn't learn without figuring things out. He's not as excited about the program as he used to be because it's more difficult, but when I asked him what kind of math he wanted to do..... workbooks, Math U See, Life of Fred........ his answer was none of course. I think we will stick with it for a while. He's learning and he wasn't learning as well with other methods. That's what's important to me.

  9. We currently use Math U See, but since we are gearing up to do some backpacking through Asia, I am really interested in testing the Life of Fred. It seems like it is light enough to be easy to carry, but quality enough that they will still be advancing! Thanks for the post!
    Mary @ www.travellingawesomes.com

  10. Thank you so much for the review and supplemental ideas. I'm looking forward to starting LoF with my 5 and 9 year olds in the fall.

  11. We have loved LOF. We use it as a midweek math, this allows for the girls to see math in action (via Fred). But it also is a break from regular math lessons (MUS). I recommend it as a fun interlude with a curriculum.

  12. What a graet way to use LOF. That way the kids get to see the application and get plenty of practice too.

  13. Has anyone done Life of Fred with/or Teaching Textbooks?

    1. That would be my exact question too! I am interested in both but wondering if LoF is enough because TT is costly. At the same time TT seems to give some independance. LoF and TT seem to be total opposites. One you need to sit down with them and really teach and find other resources if needed and the other they can do it all on the computer on their own because it even lets them know if they get something wrong and shows them how it's done.

  14. Has anyone done Life of Fred with/or Teaching Textbooks?


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