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Got a math lover? How about a math hater? With either one, the Life of Fred series of math books may be the solution for your math curriculum needs.
I first saw the Life of Fred books at a homeschool conference. The author and his wife were there talking to families about their books and I stopped to chat briefly with both. One thing that struck me instantly was that the author, Stanley Schmidt, Ph.D. , loves math and that seems to be his main motivation for having created the Life of Fred math books. You know how it is when you love something so much that you just want to share it with the world? That is exactly what I got from Dr. Schmidt and this love shines throughout his texts.
The first thing I noticed about the books is that they are, well, BOOKS just as much as they are texts to teach. Each book is based around a 5 year old genius, Fred Gauss, who encounters all sorts of situations and adventures sprinkled with plenty of humor. The stories are so entertaining you get caught up in them instantly. I can't recall any other time I've picked up a math book and actually wanted to keep reading for the "story's sake".
Years ago, when we got our first Life of Fred book, my daughter, who could be generally categorized as someone who would rather hand wash Thanksgiving dishes than sit down and work on some math, grabbed the Life of Fred Beginning Algebra book and started reading it with breakfast. I saw her sitting with it cracked open at lunchtime too! She then was reading it the next day and I also "caught" her on the couch when her schoolwork was done, browsing through, you guessed it, more Life of Fred math. The sound of the occasional snicker came floating over.Read more ›
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The Life of Fred series is a great series I would recommend to most people. The earlier books he wrote (the more advanced ones) are the best, but the newer ones are still pretty good. The story line and running commentary makes the math fun for kids; the side comments on history and on the idiosyncrasies of English usage are parts I particularly enjoy.
Many of the stories interject the author's religious beliefs and poke fun at the government and well-meaning organizations. That's generally done in a non-offensive way. But in this book on economics, his anti-government free market beliefs get in the way of presenting an unbiased view of economics. Even my ten year old son saw through some of the half truths he gave. That provided a great way for me to talk about some other views from some of the great economists like John Maynard Keynes whose ideas are not only not mentioned, but directly contradicted in the text. If his pre-algebra with biology book had been written with the same attitude, it would have focused on creationism. Thankfully that book is much better about talking about biology than this book is about economics.
If you can get past his politics, the book is as good for math as his other books in the beginner series and it does provide an introduction to economics, although it is a very biased one. The one part that I think is particularly good is his section on Ricardo's law of comparative advantage. Fred's take home message on it is that "there is a place for everyone" in the world, which is a great message for kids who look around and see that they not the best at any one thing.
My son has worked through a number of Life of Fred books, mostly in the car as we travelled. He is currently working through the Physics book and enjoys it. We have purchased the Pre-Algebra 1 and 2 books with Biology and Economics, and have been screening them for next semester. While the Biology text raised some red flags, our real problems are with the Economics test. The author shows some serious moral lapses, significant enough that I am furious. In the preface, there is a "small note to parents" that says LoF is self-teaching, and warns parents not to be involved, suggesting that their "opportunity to be involved is when they take the weekly bridge exam". This is the first book that carries such a note. Of course, the bridges are innocuous. But in the text, we find a number of gems such as "Congress has thrown the Constitution in the garbage can", "The Civil War was a tariff war, not a war to free the slaves", and an exhortation that eliminating the minimum wage is the only path towards employment. This drivel, hidden inside a textbook for my child, with an explicit note intending to dissuade me from noticing it, is unethical and beyond disturbing. I will never use these products again, and I will judge any company that sells them harshly.
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