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Life of Fred: Fractions
Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents

by Stanley Schmidt, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: Life of Fred: Fractions ($19) and Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents ($19) by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D. Available from the publisher, Polka Dot Publishing.

Life of Fred math books are unlike any you have seen. Stanley Schmidt, Ph.D., doesn't believe that hundreds of repetitive problems are necessary to teach math. Instead, he tells a story of Fred, an angular little boy who is brilliant (a college professor at age 5!) but has thoughts and desires just like a normal child.

Using different fonts, the author sets up a conversation among the narrator, Fred, and the reader. Math concepts are explained via the conversation and events in Fred's life. Then the "Your Turn to Play" section provides four to ten problems to work with the answers immediately following them.

Rather than tests, the books have "bridges" every five lessons that are cumulative review tests. There are five "tries," different tests, to cross each bridge. If the student does not show the mastery of the material required to cross the bridge, review should be considered. Answers to the bridge tries are in the back of the book, but these may be removed if desired.

Life of Fred books are meant to be self-teaching. "The emphasis is on how to learn by reading." The author instructs the teacher to let the book do the teaching! Dr. Schmidt warns against moving through the books too quickly by getting caught up in the story. He encourages students to read the math sections more than once to gain a full understanding.

The books are profusely illustrated, but not with the colorful pictures of diverse children commonly seen in today's math texts. Rather, black-and-white line drawings of everything from Fred himself to bicycle parts to pizzas are included. The enormous range of drawings makes Life of Fred books appealing.

Dr. Schmidt includes many Biblical references in the books. He relates problems to Bible stories, people, and times. Every book has "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" (for the greater glory of God) on the dedication page.

Life of Fred: Fractions

Life of Fred: Fractions is the first in the series, and it actually covers far more than fractions. Math topics such as Roman vs. Arabic numerals, geometry, and basic budgeting are brought into the story, along with a variety of other topics such as onomatopoeia, alliteration, Florence Nightingale, definitions of words that may be unfamiliar, and why you should not let a cat with marshmallow stuck to it rub on your leg.

This text has thirty-two chapters and six bridges before reaching the final bridge. Then a "Fractions Diploma" signed by Fred himself is ready for the student's name to be written in.

The author recommends starting this series after the child has a firm grasp on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts. Calculators should not be used prior to algebra.

Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents

The story line in this book picks up where it left off in Life of Fred: Fractions, when Fred is trying to turn a disappointment into something positive. Again, a variety of topics come up throughout the story including great books written in other languages, poetry, poetic elements, Heron of Alexandria vs. herons, homonyms, and floss-odometers.

Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents includes thirty-three chapters that cover more geometry, decimals, percentages, prime numbers, bar graphs, pie charts, graphing, calculating distance, and basic probability. Once the student successfully passes over the final bridge in this book, he should continue to Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra.

Recommendation: Life of Fred will definitely turn your reluctant student into a math enthusiast. While young people will find the books interesting and humorous, parents will find them FUNNY! Beyond the humor, Dr. Schmidt has a very serious point: teaching young people to learn by reading. What an unusual and outstanding goal for a math program!

The Life of Fred series is bound to create an interest in math for all students, especially those with major "math allergy." Charlotte Mason followers and unschoolers will immediately love these books, but all homeschooling families should consider trying them. The simple explanations and reduction in workload while still conveying the concepts make the Life of Fred series particularly valuable to busy homeschooling families. resources related to this review:'s Math Resources Section for everything you need to teach math and enrich your curriculum!
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