Life of Fred math books are, according the author, a complete curriculum for math from grade 5 till college. We are using them as a supplement for my two older math strong kids. Written by a retired math teacher, Dr. Stanley Schmidt, these living books, like most living books, have a conversational style, and Dr Stanley’s passion for math is very evident.
Fred Gauss, the main character, was born on the western slopes of the Siberian mountains, he is a five years old Math Professor. These books tell his story. Here are the Life of Fred books in order :
Before High School
Advanced Highschool or University
Statistics Linear Algebra
Each chapter is a few pages of the continuing story followed by ‘your turn to play’, with the answers following the questions. Here you might have a problem. I have one child who doesn’t follow an ‘honour system’ quite as well as the others. It has taken him longer to learn that cheating only cheats himself, and he still needs a little reminding on this from time to time. Once, doing a workbook he started flying through the questions, getting them all right. I was correcting with the aid of the answer page at the back, which he was not to look at. On suspecting that something was amiss, I gave him the opportunity to confess, but he was filled with indignation that I would suspect him of any wrong doing. Then I showed him the flaw in his master plan, the answer page – he had drawn doodles on it as he was getting the answers. Lessons learnt: Not all children have the strength to resist temptation, so I will be closely monitoring this one while doing Life of Fred. And, if you are going to cheat don’t leave your trade mark doodle on the answer page!
Every five or six chapters there is a Bridge. Stanley, the author, says it’s a chance for the child to show they haven’t forgotten what they have learned. It’s 10 questions from the beginning of the book to the current chapter. You have to get 90% to cross the Bridge. I love this, my boys loved this. They crossed bridges, not passed tests! looking back through past lessons is encouraged. If you don’t cross the bridge on your first go you get 4 more tries. My boys used the extra Bridges as review once they had finished the book. There is a Final Bridge at the end of each book. This is 21 questions covering everything learned. Again you get 5 tries. I got my boys to do all past undone bridges, then all of these Final Bridges. I believe in a lot of review. Each Life of Fred book should take a year to a year and a half to compete. The author quotes the old saying that you shouldn’t start algebra until you have hair under your arms, giving the child’s brain time to develop before tackling the abstract concepts in algebra. My older boys were a little ahead in math and flew through the early books. The story is hilarious. Stanley is one funny guy. My older boys have read all the books we have just for fun, they begged me to order further levels before we needed them so they could continue the story. They are beautiful books. Yes, I am a sucker for a nice looking book. They are hardback, with black and white text. They are non consumable, and will easily last generations. They teach a wide variety subjects, including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
I want my boys to be mostly self-taught by high school. The author of Life of Fred, Stanley, believes that children should learn to learn-by-reading. He says, “I encourage parents not to help, tutor, or teach! Why? After your kids graduate from university, almost everything of importance that they learn for the next forty years will be by reading—not from hearing lectures or playing with manipulative.” I personally like manipulatives, particularly for early math like the blocks used with Miquon math, and my boy thoroughly enjoy lectures, like those from The Great Teaching Company, but I’m all for letting my boys learn through reading. They are all very strong readers, which I’m sure helps and makes this books a great fit for us. Read what Dr Stanley says here about letting, no insisting, our kids become self-learners.
Life of Fred review by IrishWrath, age 13, doing Advanced Algebra Do you want to learn mathematics the fun way? Then try Life of Fred. It’s a simple, entertaining approach to math. Following the story of a five-year old professor named Fred, you learn everything from addition to calculus. At the end of each chapter you do a few exercises to see if you’ve learned the stuff, and at the end of five chapters, you do a big review. Fred has a reason for everything he does, no more “Why do I need to know that?” One of my favourite things about these books is that the author is very funny, making jokes often, and sometimes he even argues with you about things. Overall these books are great for all ages and an awesome way to learn math. IrishWrath has started to find Advanced Algebra difficult half way in, so we will put it away for a few months while he finishes Art of Problem Solving Beginners Algebra. He loves Life of Fred, Stanley’s humor is a perfect match for him.
Review by IrishCyborg, age 11 finished Pre-Algebra 2 Life of Fred is a series of books for elementary to high school grades. The main character, Fred, is a 5 and a ½ year old child who is only 3 feet tall and has a very pointy nose. Fred teaches math at a university. The series teaches math that is used in everyday life. After every few chapters, there is a Bridge, which is really a review of the previous chapters. I like this series because it feels like a story book, not a math book. IrishCyborg is very maths strong and had no problems with the math in the Pre-Algebra books. He did, however find the economic component difficult. He is now working on Speed Math For Kids.
Here are some sample pages from the books. And here Dr Stanley answers some frequently asked questions. There is a newish elementary Series also available, which I am using with IrishKing and IrishDoom. If you purchase from the publisher, Z-Twist Books, there is a 1 month money back guarantee. We love these books, and as Stanley says, they are “as serious as they need to be!“. Here is a list of the books and curriculum we use for maths.