When I first saw the Life of Fred books in 2011, I bought the entire set. It was an excellent decision and I haven't looked back. Since then, Z-Twist books has come out with a chemistry book as well as language arts books which I also recommend.
Life of Fred is a complete math curriculum written in story format. It not only teaches math concepts, but teaches the application of math thereby making math interesting. Since learning with Life of Fred is very different from traditional methods of learning mathematics, many considering purchasing Life of Fred books ask "How do kids learn from Life of Fred" and "Is Life of Fred Enough?"
Learning with Life of Fred is different. The author of Life of Fred expects his students to think. Traditional math curriculum tend to give an example and then expect the student to repeat the steps in the example with different numbers. Opposite to this approach, Life of Fred books will explain the concept and how it is used in real life through a fictional story. Often an example of how it is applied is embedded in the text. At the end of each short chapter, the student will be asked to apply the same concept to a different real life situation. In addition, the student is typically asked a few questions based on math concepts and applications taught in prior chapters.
Because the books are written in story format and teach application well, they do not make math monotonous. Instead of a page or pages of similar problems, Life of Fred asks only 2-10 questions depending on the material presented. When students are having difficulty with a procedural math concept such as long division, it is sometimes necessary to take a short break from the books and focus on the concept.
There are many people who follow various math curriculum and use the Life of Fred books to supplement math. That is a very good idea as those students are learning both math concepts and application and getting plenty of procedural practice. At my house, we take the opposite approach. We use Life of Fred as our backbone and add in extra practice only when it is needed. The extra practice usually comes in the form of a short lesson coupled with a hand written set of problems to focus on a difficult concept. My children had difficulty with rounding and long division among other concepts, so we took short breaks during those lessons.
Sometimes our breaks from Life of Fred have come in the form of entire short workbooks. Since the jump between the Fractions book and Decimals and Percent book was a challenge for my son, I have chosen to have my daughter complete a School Zone 6th grade workbook before beginning the Decimals and Percent book.
Life of Fred is a complete curriculum. However, as with any math curriculum, if a student moves on before mastering a concept, it can have a snowball effect. If a student is having difficulty with a concept, the chapter should be repeated, they should try additional problems, or the concept should be presented from a different angle before proceeding. To me, it doesn't make a difference which math curriculum is being followed. If a student doesn't understand, they are not ready to proceed.
We are Life of Fred fans and have been from the beginning. Because the books teach critical thinking and teach the application behind the procedural steps of math, Life of Fred students come away with a clear understanding of math and an ability to solve difficult problems of any type on their own.
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