Rondel never took to the “3 R’s” of education quite as naturally as Limerick (most people don’t, honestly), though he is an information sponge for the things that interest him, which have throughout his life been mostly science-related. We’d tried a couple of different approaches to learning and practicing math before I came across the Life of Fred curriculum (and I don’t even remember where, or I would definitely send them my thanks!).
Life of Fred is very, very different from any other math curriculum I’ve used. Every math concept is introduced in the context of a story about Fred Gauss, a five-year-old math professor (yes, it’s strange, but you have to just roll with it), and the end of each short (ridiculous, hilarious, bizarre) chapter has a few practice questions that work in both new and old concepts. So kids reading through the stories begin to see math as something useful, lovable, and even beautiful as it snakes its way through Fred’s everyday life (and his very odd adventures). And the stories will have kids laughing out loud along the way, if they are at all like Rondel (and myself!).
The elementary series for Life of Fred starts with Apples and Butterflies, which are both kindergarten level, and goes from there – through decimals, fractions and percents, through pre-algebra and algebra, and all the way through calculus (which was actually the first book the author wrote, oddly enough). While the books are published by Polkadot Publishing, I couldn’t find a way to purchase directly through them and ordered from ZTwist Books instead (free shipping!).
We are just beginning Cats now, having spent an average of 3-4 weeks each on the first two books. Rondel has been asking me to read Life of Fred all the time – more than I can right now with my lingering sore throat, and more than Aubade has patience for at times – and I can see his confidence with math growing week by week (we’ve been using the books for over two months by now). He will now tell people that math is his favorite because of Fred; he doesn’t get overwhelmed by basic addition and subtraction problems; he is starting to understand analog time-telling; he is getting better at remembering the days of the week and months of the year; he will skip-count for fun; and he is learning to notice patterns and sets in the things around him. The practice problems force him to focus as he has to recall information and use concepts in new contexts, but there are never so many in a set that he can’t make his way through them all.
In short, I am so glad we found these books and highly recommend them for anyone else, particularly those kids who are struggling with a traditional approach to mathematics.
3 thoughts on “learning to love math”
Your learning-together posts are so inspiring to me! Now I want to find math in the story of my life!
I like that name for them – learning together 🙂 Do you mind if I steal it to use as a category type for the posts?
Fred finds math in fun ways – like patterns in the trees planted by the road, or thinking of nonsense categories to be sets containing zero elements after realizing that the days in the week are a set of seven elements, or adding up his six horrible drawings with his doll Kingie’s one amazing drawing to find he has seven altogether. It’s pretty simple math at this level, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it grows as the series continues.
My mom actually just bought the Fred calculus book since she’s shadow-teaching calculus at the community college this semester, so I’m hoping to sneak a peek! 🙂
Oh, I’m so excited about your mom using that text at community college! I teach writing (English comp) at the community college, and I always find a set of students, often first-gen college students or women returning after raising kids or leaving unrewarding jobs, who experience profound moments of awakening as they discover the joy of writing, of learning, and I think your mom and her use of that text can provide these students with a similar experience in math!
Please adopt the term learning-together! I’d be delighted!