Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 With Biology (Review)

Over the past year, I’ve been hearing references to  the “Life of Fred” math program.  I heard glowing reviews and finally had to investigate this program with the strange name for myself!

Life of Fred Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology

Life of Fred, by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D, is a math program in story form.  The books revolve around 5 1/2 year old Fred, who is a professor of mathematics at Kittens University. This child prodigy sleeps under his desk in his office and has all sorts of strange adventures happen to him that require him (and the reader) to use his mathematical skills along the way. Each short chapter is followed by several problems for the student to work. The solutions immediately follow the problem sets, so Emily covers them with an index card while she works. The book is intended to be self-teaching. After every 7 chapters, the student has to cross a  quiz called “bridge” to progress to the next chapter. There are several bridge quizzes and once the student passes one with a 90% grade, he or she can skip to the next chapter. The bridges are graded by the teacher/parent, so this is the opportunity to assess what the child is learning.

The Life of Fred Pre-Algebra program actually includes 4 books, which can be used in the 4th-9th grades:

  • Life of Fred: Fractions
  • Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents
  • Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology
  • Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics

    Topics covered in Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology are:

    • volume of cubes, cones, and cylinders
    • percentages
    • pi
    • circumference and diameter of circles
    • operations with fractions
    • operations with decimals
    • squares  and cubes of numbers
    • solving algebraic equations
    • divisibility rules

    Although this is not a complete biology course, it covers quite a bit of information, including:

    • scientific classification
    • photosynthesis
    • digestion
    • nutrition
    • hypertension
    • genetics
    • respiratory system
    • bones
    • and more

    This is truly an innovative way to teach math! Every problem given is tied into the storyline, illustrating the practical use of mathematics in everyday life. Different types of problems are given in each lesson, so the student never faces a page of nearly identical problems, but continues to review previous concepts while learning new ones.  The “bridges” are like end-of-chapter tests. Emily has been very motivated to do well on the bridges so that she can skip straight to the next lesson. Since she tends to be careless about her work,  this is a good technique to motivate her toward excellence.

    I’m undecided about whether the books provide enough practice opportunities for students who don’t grasp concepts quickly. The lessons are very short! At this point, nearly everything Emily has encountered has been a review for her, so I can’t say whether the book would provide enough practice for new topics. I can say that she has enjoyed the book very much, is doing 2-3 lessons a day, and that the varied review is helpful to her.

    The biology is presented in a fun way, allowing students to learn about a variety of interesting topics. Like the math topics, the biology is also relevant to the story line.

    If you have a reluctant math student OR a student who loves to read OR a self-initiated student who prefer to teach himself, Life of Fred is definitely worth a look. You can see samples of each book on their website.

    5/5 stars StarStarStarStarStar

    Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology sells for $29.00 with free U.S. shipping through the publisher, PolkaDotPublishing, --a very reasonable price, especially considering there isn’t an additional teacher’s book to purchase.

  • Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher in  order to write this post. All opinions are my own.

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