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Math: Life of Fred

Who is Fred?

In one of the Life of Fred books, the character of Fred Gauss was born on the western slopes of the Siberian mountains. By the end of the eleven books, he is six years old. In his everyday life he first encounters the need for each new part of mathematics, and then comes the instruction of those mathematics. Never again will students have to ask their perennial question: “When are we ever gonna use this stuff?"

Author Stanley F. Schmidt became a full-time high school teacher the month he turned 22. In his first semester of teaching, Stan drew Fred on the blackboard. 

It was just a brief appearance: Fred was going fishing. 

Soon Fred appeared in other examples, and began to become a regular part of the classroom experience. One student in metal shop made a Fred Gauss belt buckle and gave it to Stan.

When Stan switched to college teaching, Fred came along with him. Fred's biography continued to develop. After eleven years of college teaching, Stan "retired himself" to an A-frame on six acres in the woods outside of Santa Rosa, California—waiting to find out what God wanted him to do next. Ten years later, he moved to Reno. There he began writing the Life of Fred series. Two hours each day, starting at 4 a.m., Stan and Fred work on the next book.

What's so great about these books?

They are FUN!!!

None of our six children (and neither of their parents either, I might add!) has ever really been a "math person." When these books first came into our office as review copies, we were not impressed. They were nothing fancy to look at, but since I had taken the time to contact the publisher and request review copies, I thought I should at least take the time to look them over before discounting them entirely. 

Imagine my surprise to find myself LAUGHING hysterically, just minutes into the first book! As my kids heard me, they came to see what the joke was, only to find me with my face buried between the pages of "Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents." 

"Mom, what's wrong with you - laughing over a math book?" one of the kids asked. Soon, they had all gathered around to see what the laughter was about, and before you know it, all were devouring the two books we had received as samples. I quickly ordered the rest of the series, and we all anxiously awaited their arrival. When the box (of MATH BOOKS!!!) finally arrived, it was like Christmas! We dug in, dividing the contents, reading portions aloud, and had a "rolling on the floor laughing" good time - over math!

The unique feature in these books is that they grab the child's (or adult's) interest immediately, by interweaving the teaching of mathematical concepts into the biography of the main character, a six year old orphan who just happens to be a retired Army veteran and current mathematics professor at Kittens University. Math is taught - up through college level courses - throughout the chapters, and the companion books, "Fred's Home Companion," which are available for some of the levels,offer additional drill, extra instruction, and answer keys. Also available are "City Answers" for several of the upper level books, which are answer keys for those volumes. Check individual levels to see which components are available or needed for each level.

"Life of Fred" books are affordable, cost around 1/3 the price of other, much more boring math programs. These are first-quality, laminated hardcover textbooks that are non-consumable - meaning, you buy them once, and use them forever. Quite a bargain!

The teaching in the books is full of clear examples, and all volumes are self-teaching. No lessons to prepare, nothing for you to teach. Fred does the teaching for you. All part of the fun!

I must add that, though these books are written by a Christian author, they are not as conservative as I would prefer. There are a few references throughout the series to things that I would wish to avoid. In one of the books, a character plays the part of a witch in a "Wizard of Oz" play. In one of the upper level books, a character is looking for a place to get some beer. There is also a brief account of flirting by one of the characters in one of the upper level books, and a few other instances where there is a brief mention of something that our family, as extremely conservative Independent Baptists, would rather avoid. 

Thankfully, these are all in the upper level books, and we have trained our children to know that these things are unacceptable behavior for Christians according to our family's convictions. We love this series, and would recommend it; but I would also recommend discussing beforehand with your child the possibility of something that could be potentially offensive appearing in a couple of the books, and to let them know that, even though this is the case, your family does not support those particular things, just because they happen to appear briefly in their math book. As a Christian parent, this is something we've discussed with our kids throughout their lives. We've used many books throughout the years, particularly in the science realm, that have had evolution thrown in here and there - nature books from secular publishers, for example. In the real world, our children are going to come across things that are offensive to our beliefs as Christians. There may be much merit in those resources, but we have always felt the need to counter that with strong teaching in the Bible, as well as in Creation science, so that our kids could learn to discern for themselves what is decent and acceptable and true in light of God's Word.

That's why we offer such strong, life-challenging Bible study and Creation science resources. Remember, what you find for sale here is what we use with our own six children.

That said, all in all, we consider the "Life of Fred" series one of our "best finds" of the year! Take a look at the preview samples, and we think you'll agree!

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