Math for the Young at Heart - Life of Fred

Monday, February 2, 2015

We often share what is going on week to week here at Monarch Room, but rarely take time to share about the things we love. Of course we love and share about HOD each week, but what else do we do around here? My little guy Silas has been home for school since Pre-K. This was the child that stubbornly refused to go to public school. I did a lot of research going into that first year, and I stumbled on a living book  math series called Life of Fred. We have been reading through Fred's adventures ever since.

We started with the first elementary book Apples and are now in Ice Cream. The series spans from early elementary all the way up through college math! The books are focused on a character named Fred who is a 5 year old math professor at Kittens University in Kansas. He also has a talking doll named Kingie who is a master painter. Fred, while a genius on some levels, is just a 5 year old boy. The poor kid gets taken advantage of by the villain of the stor.y C.C. Coalback and his sister are con artists who often try to sell him things for far more than they are worth. Fred is innocent and is often fooled. Poor kid. We walk through daily life with Fred as a university professor and solve the problems of his life with, you guessed it, math!

These books are deceptive in their depth. Each book focuses on certain math aspects, but also adds in incredibly difficult concepts that aren't introduced until much later in a student's education. The great part is Fred is so lovable that my kiddos don't mind working through the math. There are usually around 19 chapters in each book. We have taken seasons off, but right now we are working through a chapter a day. We should be finished with Jelly Beans by the end of this year and on to Kidneys, Liver and Mineshaft by 4th grade.

 I love how there is often practical application in each book. I especially loved how long division was introduced. We had not yet started the topic of long division when we read this chapter, so Silas was pretty scared about it. Dr. Stanley Schmidt (the author of this wonderful series) likened it to learning how to walk and how difficult that was at first to learn.

Eventually it got easier, and we no longer remember the pain of learning. Silas is incidentally getting pretty great at long division!

Often kids ask, "Why do we have to learn math anyway?" I love how Dr. Schmidt explained the answer to this question.

Why can't we just use our calculator and find the answer? Dr. Schmidt explains that we could of course get a job at a fast food restaurant and never have to use long division. We could in fact never even have to learn to read because the cash register would even have pictures to press. If instead you would like to have a swanky real estate job you may need to know a few math tricks. If as a realtor you needed to know how many yards were in 42 feet and you broke out a calculator to find the answer, well, that would make you look pretty "dorky." Well said Dr. Schmidt.

This is where I broke out a piece of paper and a pencil and did some quick math with Silas. We found out how much minimum wage was and how much we would get paid per month with that wage (minus taxes of course.) I told him how much a house like the one we live in would cost per month plus the cost of utilities, food and gas would cost to get to and from work. I explained that doesn't even count the fun stuff! I subtracted that from the minimum wage check and we came up at least 1500 negative. I asked Silas if learning long division seemed important now. His answer was yes :)

Aedan has always listened in on Fred. I have caught him many (many) times reading these books in his free time. He is my self professed math hater by the way. I recently got him the Fractions and Decimals books. He is loving them just as much as the early books. I am starting him here and will hopefully get him to where he needs to be. He says that the story makes it worth it. He has to admit that with Fred math is actually fun. I love Dr. Schmidt's sense of humor. While some folks might find the storyline silly, we are a quirky bunch over here. These are books I will likely not sell and keep around for the grandkids. They just recently came out with an early reader set of Fred books. I may have to get them for someday or maybe sooner just for me :)


  1. What a great pic of Silas holding the books! Your post makes me wish I'd kept up with the elementary series this year. When we first started LOF, my now 14 year old would read through his book and then his older brother's books would go missing - to be found in his bed where he was reading them. I never heard of a kid sneaking a math book to read it before! But, he wanted to know what happened to Fred. :)

  2. There would be much weeping if we stopped reading our Fred books :) I would have never guess I'd find my oldest sneaking math books either.


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