Sunday, December 29, 2013

Review - Life of Fred

I LOVE Life of Fred! I wish that it had been around (and in public schools) when I was in school. Maybe then, I would have actually enjoyed Math, instead of hating it due to it being boring.

Luckily, it is around now, so I can use it for my son. My son adores this program. He started it with the Fractions and Decimals & Percents books. We had him do those books along side the Fractions and Decimals & Percents books from Mastering Mathematics, which was the program he had been using. We did it that way, not because we saw Fred as a supplement, but so we could get a feel for how he liked Fred before transitioning him into it as his sole Math program. That way, if he didn't like Fred or it wasn't the right fit, we still had a little time to find something else. We knew right away that he enjoyed LOF. We already owned Beginning Algebra - Trig. He was not only reading the LOF books that he was actually doing for Math, but was reading the rest of those we owned at bedtime. I also saw right away that he was learning from them. He would come into the room to tell me something he learned from one of them, so happy to share his new knowledge, so proud of how much he was learning.

So far this year, he has finished Elementary Physics, Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology, & Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics. Despite how quickly he is moving through the program, I have no concerns about his retention. He still loves to tell me new things he'e learning from them. He scored 100% on almost every Bridge.  Plus, he is still enjoying the books greatly. In just about a week, he'll start Beginning Algebra.

Using this program is helping more than just his Math. It is helping him become more independent in his school work. He not only can use this program almost entirely independently, but he enjoys using it independently. He loves checking his answers and seeing how many he got right. He loves moving through it at his own pace, and he loves the story. All I've been doing is checking the answers to the Bridges or sitting with him while he checks the answers.

In case you don't know about Life of Fred, let me enlighten you. Life of Fred is a fun, story-based Math program. Fred is a 5 year old Math professor at Kittens University. He teaches the reader Math, not through dull lectures, endless drills, and tiresome worksheets, but through the entertaining story of his life and the uses of Math in it.

There are not worksheets to accompany the chapters. Instead, each chapter has one (or more) Your Turn to Play. These have a few problems for the student to work through on their own. I say a few problems, and I mean a few. Some of them have but one or two problems, while others have as many as five (ok, I have not read through all the books & some have more than 5 problems, but they are mostly rather short). Each Your Turn to Play is followed by the answers, fully worked out. In the books he has so far used, there is a Bridge every 5 chapters or so. The Bridge is basically a test. There are 5 tries for each Bridge, so if they do not pass (they need 9 out of 10 correct to pass), they have another chance. Starting in Beginning Algebra, there are Cities, not Bridges. Cities are at the end of every chapter, as the chapters are longer than in previous books, and there are 6 Cities. The Cities, much like the Bridges in earlier books, determine whether or not the student is ready to move on.

The Fred books my son is looking forward to using are Beginning Algebra, Advanced Algebra, Geometry, Trig., Calculus, Statistics, and Linear Algebra. There are also elementary level books in the series. However, we never used those. They were not out when my son started elementary level Math.

Now, the author of the Life of Fred series tells you that your child should not start the Fractions book until at least 5th grade & should have hair under their arms before starting Beginning Algebra. Well, I kind of ignored this advice. My son is far too advanced in Math & enjoys the subject far too much for me to force him to wait to move on. If, upon starting Beginning Algebra, I find that he is not yet ready to handle the "abstractions that algebra contains" I will reconsider and possibly have him reread the previous books. Otherwise, I am content to allow him to proceed at his own pace, however fast that may be, until and unless I believe there is a problem with his comprehension & retention.

These books are shorter than most Math books. Each of the three books he's finished so far this year had less than 50 lessons. Beginning Algebra has only a little over 100 lessons. Some of the books are a full year, such as Geometry & Calculus. Don't let the shorter length fool you, though. There is a lot of content in these books. They are shorter because they do not contain the filler and extensive review & repetition found in most Math books. These are more condensed than other books.

Now, generally, I prefer our materials to be completely Secular. This program is written by a Christian, but it is not what I would call a Christian program. I have seen no direct Bible quotes or attempts to tie Math to the Bible. Really, I can't remember anything specifically catching my attention. Small things like mentioning saying prayers at bed or being a church-goer often escape my notice. So, I'm not saying that there are absolutely no references to religion, just that I have seen none that are glaring or offensive.

This is a program that I would highly recommend. The story component would be great for a child who dislikes Math, as it makes it more fun. The way he explains Math is clear & concise, great for a student who is struggling or a student doesn't need really long, drawn out explanations. The fast pace & lack of review & repetition are great for a student strong in Math, who grasps the concepts easily & masters them quickly. The two Algebra books now have books to go with them full of extra practice problems. These provide extra practice for a child who might need more practice than what the Algebra books & Home Companions (or the extended edition Algebra books that combine the Algebra books & their Home Companions) provide. We picked up the book of practice problems for Beginning Algebra (Zillions of Practice Problems for Beginning Algebra), just in case my son does have some trouble with the transition to Algebra and needs some extra practice. All in all, this is a great program. One of my favorite things about it, though, is that is goes to a higher level than any other homeschool Math program. Other Math programs go to Calculus, at the highest. Some don't even go that far. Fred goes all the way to Linear Algebra. This is by far my favorite Math program out of all those we've tried.