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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Life of Fred Apples Review


A friend of mine graciously let me borrow her copy of Apples from Life of Fred, and I'm so excited about it that I decided to do an unsolicited review.

SEE FOR YOURSELF - A SAMPLE LESSON

Each book is designed to take approximately one month to complete.

Life of Fred is a series of books that presents math in a unique way. It is the work of Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D. who admittedly gives all glory to God for his inspired curriculum supplement idea. Each book in the series retails for approximately $16. It starts with the elementary series book, Apples.

There are 10 books in the entire elementary set, 3 in the middle school set, and 5 in the pre-algebra set, 4 in the high school algebra set, one for geometry, one for trigonometry, and 6 in the college level set, for a total of 17 in the entire upper level set.

Apples begins with a 5-year-old college math professor named Fred. Don't ask how a 5-year-old can become a professor. It's all part of the unique approach to teaching math. See, math doesn't have to be frustrating or boring.

It's not your typical worksheet style math instruction book. Instead, it weaves in math facts that are appropriate for each level of book intertwined within a fun story. Also, The book progresses with 18 chapters, and with each chapter the story builds using a sort of unit study format and opening up math class to concepts of every day life, historical stories, science facts, and other fun useful, real-life learning.

The first chapter, and many subsequent chapters, cover math facts of the number 7. It seems everything equals "7". And, then pictures of clocks begin to show up within the story as Fred casually mentions time in 5 minute and hour increments as he tells his story.

Geometry concepts are also introduced, showing shapes and names of shapes in a really fun way. My elephant-loving daughter really loved that the ellipses was explained as a circle that an elephant had sat on.



The chapters have a story that are each about 6 pages long, followed by a "Your Turn to Play" which asks questions and has the child perform activities related to what they just learned in the chapter.

The answers to each "Your Turn to Play" section are on the reverse and following page.

Screenshot from Sample Lesson


The chapters cover:

Time
The 7 Fact Families
Circles
Ellipse
Days of the Week
Facts about February
Temperatures
Deciduous treet
How to make 20 by adding 10 + 10
Counting by 5's
Ordinal numbers of First, second and third
Concepts of algebra finding the value of "X"
Archimedes
The meaning of a.m.
One hundred explained in rows and columns
Before photography was invented
Best Mathematician who lived over 500 years ago
Ocen liners in Kansas
Square
Pacific and Atlantic oceans
Whales
Fish
Concepts  of Zero
Sets of up to 17 members
subtraction facts of 7
Triangles
Herbivores
Carnivores
Chess facts - What checkmate looks like and how the Rook moves on the board
How to spell yacht
The story of the Titanic
Truth and lies using a silly duck
Letters of the Greek alphabet
Drawing circles inside of triangles and triangles inside of circles
Counting by hundreds
Movies verses real life
rectangles
octagons and stop signs
five-sided shapes
Reading books and research facts of how to
money concepts using a dime
drawing comic strips
.
OK, I'll be completely honest and admit that before I sat down with the book and my child, I wasn't sure I really understood all the hub bub behind Life of Fred. I like humor, but found it sort of strange that the curriculum focused on a 5-year-old math professor named Fred. My very logical 8-year-old had the same reaction at first as she had difficulty getting past the idea that a child could teach math as a profession.

So, we sat our serious selves down and decided to delve into the book and see what was at the bottom of the Life of Fred. It really only took me a few chapters to decide that this book was amazing. Silly, yes, but that's what makes it unique. By being silly in having it all presented by a 5-year-old math professor named Fred, it takes the edge off of the stress of learning and allows the child to settle in to enjoying the story.

Instead of freezing up and hating math, what happens is that the child begins to want to know what happens next in the story. What they don't realize is how much math and other facts they are learning.

And, they really are learning so much more than math.

Everything is woven throughout the story to fit together and make sense in a nonsensical way. When we had finished the Apples book, we understood what the difference was between a deciduous and evergreen tree, how many days are in specific months of the year, how many days are in a week, how to tell time down to the 5-minute mark, who Archimedes was, a bit about the history of the Titanic, how to draw a circle inside of a triangle, and whenever we envision an ellipse now, we will picture an elephant squashing it. Not only that, but concepts of algebra have already been introduced in a way that almost seems mysterious and spy-like. The book ended by having the child draw a cartoon comic strip and segues into wanting to read the next book.


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