Pre-Algebra Archives - Eva Varga

Life of Fred: Math Curricula for Middle & High School

August 4, 2016

As a homeschool parent, I want to challenge my children. I want to provide them with opportunities not available to students in brick-and-mortar schools. I spent a lot of time researching and seeking out course work and math curricula that was engaging and challenging.

Years ago, a homeschool colleague shared with me that her 14 year old daughter had taken the college placement exam and had enrolled in Math 111. I immediately wanted to know what math curricula she had used. “Life of Fred,” she replied. “Chloe worked through the Pre-Algebra series and Beginning Algebra on her own.”

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Each Life of Fred text is written in the style of a novel with a humorous story line. This was very appealing to my oldest, an avid reader. Each section tells part of the life of Fred Gauss,  a five year old who teaches math at KITTENS University in Kansas.  The story shares how, in the course of his life, Fred encounters the need for the math and then learns the methods.

As she progressed through the books, she gradually transitioned away from direct instruction whereby I was teaching concepts to her and began to rely more on her own reading. She became an independent learner.

Never again hear the question which many math students proclaim: “When are we ever gonna use this stuff?” or “Math is boring!”

Life of Fred makes this possible not only through story but with tons of solved examples. Each hardcover textbook contains ALL of the material – more than most instructors cover in traditional classroom settings.

We meet with Fred daily and have really enjoyed his adventures. I thought I’d share our experience with Life of Fred since people often have a lot of questions about it.

What I Love About Life of Fred Math Curricula

I love the story nature of the text and real life problem approach. Fred encounters a need for the math and then uses it, usually within the context of a humorous situation.

It encourages a different approach to attacking a problem. Students are encouraged to think.

Less drill and more complex problems. This lessens boredom and fatigue and leads to increased accuracy.

The texts are non-consumable; I can use them with both kids. I’ve never been a fan of workbooks; I love that they work out the problems on ordinary notebook paper.

The cost is budget friendly. The middle school texts are just \$17 and the high school texts start at just \$28 at Educents. You can’t go wrong even if you just wanted to try it out.

Life of Fred Math Curricula for Middle School

My kiddos had completed the Singapore Math curricula series for elementary and middle school, so this is where we actually started. They were immediately hooked on Fred’s story and have loved to read about his humorous antics.

Once you know:

• the subtraction tables
• the multiplication tables
• long division

… you are ready to start Life of Fred Fractions, the first book in the Pre-Algebra series.

Who is it for? 5th – 9th grades

Concepts covered: Savings and Expenses, Sectors, Comparing & Reducing Fractions, Roman Numerals, Least Common Multiples, Improper Fractions, Commutative Law, Decimals, Functions and Inverse Functions, Pi, Sets and Subsets, Union and Intersection of Sets, Rules of Divisibility, Bar Graphs & Pie Charts, Prime and Composite Numbers, Consecutive Numbers, the Goldbach Conjecture, Conversion between Percents/ Fractions/ Decimals, Square Roots, Ratio, Ordered Pairs, Negative Numbers, Elapsed Time, Probability, and more!

Titles in this series:  Fractions, Decimals & Percents, Pre-Algebra with Physics, Pre-Algebra with Biology, Pre-Algebra with Economics

Life of Fred Math Curricula for High School

My kiddos were already familiar with Fred’s style and approach to problem solving as they had previously completed the Pre-Algebra series.  They loved that they weren’t required to do a bunch of drill-and-kill problems. When they struggled with a concept, they simply re-read the chapter.

My daughter is currently using the Advanced Algebra text. When she was about mid-way through the text, she actually made the decision herself to begin it again. We had been doing a lot of traveling and she hadn’t been going through the lessons regularly. Repeating the textbook helped to clarify the concepts that were previously foggy for her or that she didn’t recall from earlier readings.

If you …

• have finished the Life of Fred Pre-Algebra books
• have used another algebra program
• have used Saxon Math Algebra 1 and/or 2

… you are ready to start the first book in the high school series, Beginning Algebra.

Concepts covered: Division by Zero, Venn Diagrams, Cramer’s Rule, Inequalities, Imaginary Numbers, Variation, Laws of Exponents, Four-dimensional Geometry, Non-Euclidean Geometry, Sines, Cosines and Tangents, Conditional Trig Equations, Functions of Two Angles, and much more!

Titles in this series:  Zillions of Practice Problems: Beginning Algebra

Unlocking the Joy of Math: Homeschool Pre-Algrebra Curriculum

January 20, 20154

Getting my son to do formal lessons has always been a struggle. He never sits still for long – unless of course he is building with Legos. He would rather be outside slaying dragons with the sword he built with his Papa or hunting down lost Incan treasure with his whip coiled at his side.

Recently he exclaimed, “Mom, can I do my math on the computer? I really like Unlock Math and I want to see if I can do it myself.” This caught me by surprise and brought a smile to my face.

We received access to the Unlock Math Pre-Algebra curriculum in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product.  All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Don’t miss the special promo at the end!!

Unlock Math

UnLock Math has literally unlocked the joy of math for my son.  He logs onto his personal account and listens to the video lesson (about 5-7 minutes long), completes a set of practice problems, completes a set of extra practice problems if he feels he needs to, and answers a challenge question.

The best part is that I can immediately see how he has done on his lesson, see which ones he needs to work on (if any), and look at his grades…they’re all saved for us!

Pre-Algebra Scope & Sequence

The pre-algebra program covers the following skills and has several lessons for each:

• Whole numbers
• Integers
• Variable and expressions
• Rational numbers
• Fractions
• Equations
• Inequalities
• The coordinate plane
• Decimals
• Percent
• Polynomials
• Triangles
• 2D geometry
• 3D geometry
• Analyzing data
• Stats and probability

Interactive Homeschool Math Curriculum

UnLock Math offers an excellent interactive math curriculum with several features that were appealing to my son.

1. Video Instruction – Students learn with high-quality and entertaining video instruction in a safe virtual learning environment. The video was a nice change from our usual textbook approach.

2. Focused – When the student enters the practice problems or quiz portion of the program, they will only see one question at a time. This helps to focus their attention and prevent them from being overwhelmed with a whole page of problems at one time.

My son has Nystagmus so his eyes are constantly moving. He did have a little trouble with the font size during the practice problems or quizzes. We found though that we could easily enlarge the screen image from our drop down ‘View’ menu.

3. Variety – Students will encounter a variety of different question types that truly assess what they have learned and retained in ways that multiple choice simply can’t.

4. Flexible – Students can practice as much or as little as needed to reinforce concepts covered in the videos. In the concepts that my son was familiar with and grasped easily, he was able to jump ahead to the challenge or unit test, rather than be restricted to practice problems.

5. Challenging – At the end of each lesson were challenges or bonus puzzles.  These logic problems challenged him to use the problem solving strategies covered in the lesson in different ways. He really enjoyed this part of the lesson and rarely skipped them.

6. Assessment Feedback – Parents can avoid the hassle of grading homework and tests with UnLock Math’s automated grading process. What I loved best about this process was that upon submitting his answers, he could click on “View Details” and each problems would be solved step-by-step.

If he got a problem wrong, he was able to read through the solution and identify where he went wrong. In some cases, he simply misinterpreted the question. Having this solution provided him with clarity and reduced his frustration.