Life of Fred

February 16, 2011
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Life of Fred

Content: Math
Grade(s): 1st – 12th
Perspective: Christian
Prep Time: Minimal
Teacher Manual: Available
Teacher Involvement: Moderate
Cost: $ || ?
Pages: 128+
Publication Date: 2011

Common Core Aligned: No

From Life of Fred’s website:

The Life of Fred series is designed as a complete math curriculum for homeschoolers, so there is no need to cram, squeeze, or expand the material in order to fit into some government 9-month program. When students finish one course, then they begin the next one. Fred’s Home Companion offers you daily assignments and can be used by parents as a study guide and curriculum planner.

As a parent, you have ten or eleven years to gradually introduce addition, multiplication and long division. By the time your child is in, say, the fifth grade, the addition and multiplication facts will be memorized if it is gradually taught over the years.

What’s to be avoided is beating the addition and multiplication tables into the child’s head. Life of Fred: Fractions is a reward for learning the tables.

Elementary Series

  • Apples (128 pages)
    Some topics include telling time to 5-minutes, shapes, counting by hundreds

  • Butterflies (128 pages)
    Some topics include cardinal numbers, skip counting by 2s, numbers that add to 9

  • Cats (128 pages)
    Some topics include numbers that add to 13, skip counting by 3s, factions to 1/4

  • Dogs (128 pages)
    Some topics include money, addition with carrying, doubling numbers

  • Edgewood (128 pages)
    Some topics include geometric shapes, sales tax, multiplication, division

  • Farming (128 pages)
    Some topics include subtraction with borrowing, circumference, rhetoric

  • Goldfish (128 pages)
    Some topics include measurement systems, decimals, graphs

  • Honey (128 pages)
    Some topics include order of operations, properties of multiplication, money

  • Ice Cream (128 pages)
    Some topics include slope, elapsed time, multiplication tricks

  • Jelly Beans (128 pages)
    Some topics include reducing fractions, averages, charts and graphs

Intermediate Series

  • Kidneys (128 pages)
    Some topics include decimals, converting units

  • Liver (128 pages)
    Some topics include percentages, fractions

  • Mineshaft/strong> (128 pages)
    Some topics include exponents, subtracting measurement units

Arithmetic Books

  • Fractions (192 pages)
    Presupposes that the reader knows three things: (1) addition tables: What’s 5 + 8?; multiplication tables: What’s 7 times 8?; and long division: What’s 6231 divided by 93?

  • Decimals and Percents (192 pages)

    Getting Ready for High School Math

    • Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics (288 pages)

    • Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology (288 pages)

    • Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics (288 pages)

    High School Math

    • Beginning Algebra Expanded Edition (544 pages)

    • Advanced Algebra Expanded Edition (544 pages)

    • Geometry Expanded Edition (560 pages)

    • Trigonometry Expanded Edition (496 pages)

    Have you ever used Life of Fred? How did it work for your family? Share your review below.


    • Sandra Macleod September 10, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Life of Fred is math told in story form. Each chapter at this level is a few pages of story/biology or economics/math followed by about three to ten problems and questions in the section “Your Turn to Play.” Answers immediately follow the questions, and we found covering them with an index card kept one from taking in the answers while working the problems. After seven or eight chapters, a set of five tests of sorts (“The Bridge”) appears. According to the book, the student should continue to attempt these ten-question tests until mastering one with an 80%. Then the student can move on to the next section. Looking back for assistance on all of the tests is encouraged. At the end of the book, are five “Final Bridge” exams, with twenty-one questions each.

      In Pre-algebra I, the story revolves around gardening (in Fred’s office) and a scandalous, swindling shopping mall owner. The story is interspersed with brief descriptions of sets, volumes of various solids, the five kingdoms of living thing, a smattering of genetics, a bit of algebraic equations, and more. Evolution in not on the topic list (and the author points that out in the introduction). Far more biology surfaces in this book than math, although most of the problems to work are mathematical.

      No risk that I’ll give away the ending of Pre-algebra I. We lost interest midway through. Actually, I lost interest in Chapter 3, but my son hung in until the halfway point. The science is sound, if rather scattered and incomplete. The story was far from compelling, at least to the two of us. I’ve heard from those who’ve used Fred for the preceding Fractions and Decimals books that those earlier volumes are far more focused and interesting. And while I’ve read on message boards that some families manage to make Life of Fred their entire math curriculum, for many folks it seems to be a supplement. If my son had enjoyed it, I suppose we’d have stuck with it as supplement, a way to vamp a bit before Algebra — The Real Thing.

      But he didn’t enjoy it, so we stopped. Perhaps our problem stemmed from not having used prior volumes of Fred. Not that I felt we were missing parts of the story, but the scattershot of math and biology often left me explaining details the author omitted. I understood that issue when set theory tripped him up (none of that in the elementary Singapore) — that was some of why I decided to try the series. Sets, a bit of probability, and those sorts of odds and ends are what we need. Unfortunately, there was precious little of that math — or any math — to be found in Pre-Algebra 1. The biology was sound, but it’s largely vocabulary (solipsism, proprioceptors, hexaploid, pleotropic genes) amongst interesting biological facts, not ground-up biology that will provide a strong base for future studies.

      Yes, I was disappointed. Perhaps it’s just us. Life of Fred is designed to be self-taught, and we just don’t do that with math. I have two mathematically talented kids, but they like interaction with a human for math. I like it that way. Math deserves conversation. Certainly one could do that with Life of Fred, but it is definitely a sit-and-read kind of series, not a work-at-the-white-board one.

      You can read the rest of my Life of Fred review at

    • Jen Driscoll February 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      My older child, now 11, started in Life of Fred: Fractions, after leaving the public school halfway through fourth grade. He had not yet encountered fractions or decimal work. He has subsequently used LoF Decimals and Percents and is nearly finished the first pre-algebra book, LoF:Pre-Algebra with Biology. We use this as our primary math program.

      He now loves math and looks forward to it. I have purchased the remaining books in the series through Trigonometry (including the “Home Companions) to look through them and preview what concepts are there and how they are presented, and we are delighted with the series through Trigonometry.

      I was curious about how he was really doing, and how much he was absorbing, so I recently used a copy of Dociani Accelerated Pre-Algebra to test him orally, and he had no difficulty at all explaining concepts to me, writing them down mathematically, and then demonstrating how and why they would be used. I also have him sometimes work a section of AoPS Pre-Algebra, and he has no difficulty with it after using Life of Fred.

      The amount of repetition in Fred is deceptively strong; there are over 500 problems in the Fractions book, and the use of Fractions is reinforced in the Decimals and Percents book, and reinforced further in the Pre-Algebra books. Similarly, I see the Decimal and Percentage information being reinforced in the Pre-Algebra books.

      I’ll keep monitoring how his understanding and retention go, using Dolciani as a benchmark, and will update if things falter or change, but so far, LoF is holding its own as a standalone program for a kid who does not require 4 million reps of each problem in order to “get it.” He seems to be picking up on the theory as well as the application of the mathematics he is learning, and that has us quite pleased.

    • Korin August 5, 2011 at 5:36 am

      I have used LoF with my two boys for a few years now. We completed Fractions, Decimals & Percents, and both Pre-Algebra books. We are currently halfway through Beginning Algebra.

      I have always used Singapore math, and this was a supplement. However, once I started using LoF, my kids would beg to do math every day, and it became a favorite subject. I was able to get one chapter in LoF and a lesson in SM done quickly and happily each day instead of 1/3 of a SM lesson with whining and complaining. By the end of the first Pre-Algebra book I dumped the SM 6B.

      I do think that, at least in the beginning, it should be a supplement, but as I go on with it, I realize that it can be a very full curriculum. It is so “out there” though, that it might still seem too thin to some people.

      The odd story lines and bizarre humor works with my kids and they understand the concepts more quickly and with a deeper understanding than we were doing previously. It is not for everyone, but it has been a wonderful addition to our family.

    • Karin Van Vlack August 1, 2011 at 9:35 am

      We have used LOF Fractions and LOF Decimals and Percentages with our 10-yo. We used these volumes along with the “Key to” series, The Cryptoclub text and workbook, and the first section of “Mathematics: A Human Endeavor” for our 2010-20111 math program. I think LOF is a great fit, as others have noted, for kids who like narrative. I would add that my dh and I also become rather wrapped up in the narrative, and the humor there, and ask for updates over dinner. But our goal in teaching math at home is to reveal the beauty and usefulness of math, not just the mechanics. I feel that the LOF author supports this outlook.

    • Katherine alexander February 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm

      We have several Life of Fred books. We haven’t used them for my gifted son as textbooks but he has really enjoyed just reading them. And by just reading them he has actually picked up a lot of what they are about without doing the problems. If I was going to use this as a textbook I really don’t think they offer enough problems to work on.

    • Julie February 27, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      My kids have enjoyed learning from Life of Fred and can do it mostly independently. I don’t think it has enough problems to be a complete curriculum, but can be added to anything. I think this is an especially good book for students that are more inclined to explanations in English rather than in numbers.

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