Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 With Biology

Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 With Biology

# 046445

Our Price: $39.00
In Stock.

Item #: 046445
ISBN: 9780979107221
Grades: 6-8

Product Description:

Even before we had a description of this math program on our website or in our catalog, we had many, many inquiries about it (and a goodly number of sales). Is it the name? Is it the concept of a small, pointy-nosed 5-year old teaching Calculus at Kittens University? Is it the outrageous storyline? Or are people desperate for another approach to math? Although I was the one who reviewed and decided to carry this program, I was initially skeptical about its scope. After all, much of the text was given over to following the Life of Fred, with all the strange humor and unlikely scenarios that go along with it. In fact, that's part of the attraction for a student who really doesn't enjoy math (yes, I have one of those). So, could the course possibly have the content that a more traditional text (like Saxon) has? Moreover, what type of person would actually use this course, as entertaining and whimsical as it is (if you can think whimsy and Calculus in one thought). Well, after using Life of Fred for Beginning Algebra and reading through most of the Fractions book, I think I can answer some of these questions.

First, Fred IS the unlikely mathematician in all of us. Despite his youth and other cards stacked against him (you'll have to read the books to understand this), Fred is amazingly successful as a math professor. Why? It's because he finds math so intriguing, entertaining, and downright USEFUL in everyday life (his life, the Life of Fred). Why, math is everywhere in the world of Fred - and no matter how things are going, he can always see the math in it.

Then, there's the psychology of Fred. You want to help the little guy. I mean, he's smart, but so innocent, kind, helpful, endearing - small, helpless, underweight (why, when he was erroneously inducted into the army, they had to use a little cup instead of a helmet for his uniform!). Clearly the underdog in many situations, Fred has ended up in the hospital in both books I've read - even though one injury was accidental. But I digress. You do get wrapped up in the Life of Fred. And because you're rooting for him and concerned about him, you kind of get taken up in the math that pervades his thoughts. No matter how tough the Life of Fred gets, he always has time to explain the finer points of math to those needy souls around him. Don't get me wrong, Fred has plenty of fun, too. He always makes the best of things and has some great student/friends at Kittens who also seem to need math in their everyday lives...

These are, indeed, the most unconventional full-program math texts I've ever seen. Maybe that's why students who dislike traditional programs are so drawn to LOF. The books just seem more accessible and - well, friendly. Maybe it's just the author's personality or particular gift, but students who are turned off by traditional math seem to find refreshment and even inspiration in LOF. Although you may have read some debate on whether the series is too lightweight for a basal program, my two cents is that it is not. The math is all here - and then some. What is missing is repetition, redundancy, and a multitude of problems to work. These books are like my favorite college math text. When I first saw it, I thought it was too slim for a whole-semester course. Ha! Every word in that book was loaded. The text was so cunningly and concisely written that you actually had to study every word because nothing was repeated. While LOF isn't quite that concise (it does have a complete storyline along with the math), Dr. Schmidt doesn't waste words or your time. Every problem is almost like a brainteaser - just a little out of your reach unless you truly grasp the concepts. It gives you a chance to figure things out for yourself. There's a whole lot of brain-stretching going on. Therefore, gifted math students are also drawn to these courses as they allow them to be challenged. Another good candidate for LOF is the remedial student who has already been through the course using another text. If it just didn't click, I would try this one. Finally, a motivated or independent student would also appreciate using the course. It's purposely addressed to the student and intended to be self-teaching. In fact, the author prefers that students use these with very little help from you so they can learn to study and understand on their own. Even the solutions are addressed to the student. In fact, there's a lot of actual instruction in the solutions, which students should read after trying to solve problems on their own. In short, just about EVERY student could use this program. The only shortfall I have seen in the program is for students who really need a lot of constant repetition and reinforcement. In some sections there are just not enough problems, even using the Home Companion. I had this problem twice in Beginning Algebra as serious as it needs to be. I both made up some of my own problems and supplemented with problems from Saxon Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 (some of the material is actually more advanced than in that series). I have since run across several other supplemental products that I could have used as well.

Life of Fred is a series of 12 courses. Two of these are Fractions and Decimals & Percents. The author recommends waiting to start these until your child is old enough to work on his/her own (about 5th grade). Each of these courses should take less than a quarter of a year to complete. The new LOF Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology is formatted like the previous books, with BRIDGES rather than CITIES. It would fit in a teaching sequence between Fractions and Decimals & Percents and Beginning Algebra. You can get a good idea of what is taught in the course and the proportion of biology to algebra by checking out the table of contents on our website. Literally a "dream come true", Fred is every bit as entertaining while teaching biology as he is when teaching math! While this course will not replace high school biology, it will replace much of the biology instruction in a general science course. Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics completes the pre-algebra instruction, this time delving into topics such as interest rates, competition, opportunity costs, supply and demand. Following the same format as the Fractions, Decimals & Percents and Pre-Algebra 1 and 2, Dr. Schmidt has released Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics (formerly Elementary Physics). This book fits nicely into the Life of Fred sequence between Decimals & Percents and Pre-Algebra 1. Dr. Schmidt feels that too much time is lost before presenting physics in high school and this book is designed as an introduction to fill that gap. Algebra and Advanced Algebra should each take a little more than half a year. While Geometry takes place during one day in the Life of Fred (a Thursday after his sixth birthday), it is definitely a full year course. Trigonometry can be completed in half of a year and Calculus (although covering two full years of calculus) will take one year. According to Mr. Schmidt, after this progression "you will be ready to declare as a math major at a university at the upper division level and take third-year (junior-level) mathematics courses". For even more Life of Fred, there is also a Statistics course which "has much more material than is normally covered in a beginning university statistics course". It's been years since my required course as a business major at a university - I may just take this one myself. Partly to test the author's assertion and partly because life is full of decisions and, as the author says, "Success in life is 90% making the right decisions in the first place" (the other 10% is carrying them out). Also new is Linear Algebra (as serious as it needs to be). Scanning through the book, it looks a lot like an upper-level course called Finite Math that I took in college. It covers: solving systems of equations with one solution (includes Gauss-Jordan elimination, Gaussian elimination), many solutions, and no solution (includes data fitting); matrices; vector spaces; inner product spaces (including Fourier series and Gram-Schmidt orthogonalization process); linear transformations; and systems of equations into the future (including eigenvalues, stochastic matrices, Markov chains, Fibonacci numbers) It is described by Dr. Schmidt as a math course required by most colleges for math majors and should be taught after Calculus As far as progression, Dr. Schmidt has placed it at the very end of his other courses, after Statistics. Like other upper-level courses, this one has "Your Turn to Play" sections separating textual chunks. Each chapter ends with six CITIES. There is a separate answer key for answers not included in the text.

Organization and format of the books is similar; of course, they all have a captivating storyline centering on Fred Gauss, a very young university math professor. The author, Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D., is a witty guy, a good storyteller, and he also loves math. Unlike many programs, the text is not written at a 6th grade level. If anything, the text is imbued with a little "extra" knowledge in different areas - especially vocabulary. Dr. Schmidt also appears to be a Christian man. Although his books aren't preachy and in places tend toward gritty realism, you will find a strong plug for goodness here, along with a main character who says his prayers every night. Fractions, Decimals and Percents, and the Pre-Algebra books are structured a little differently than the upper-level books. Chapters in these are short (as are the books), ending with a Your Turn to Play problem set, followed by complete solutions with explanation. Generally, after every five chapters, there's a BRIDGE taking you from the culmination of the preceding chapters to the new material. Actually, there are five BRIDGES - your student has five tries to make it across the BRIDGE. These contain a ten-question review of everything learned to that point. Mr. Schmidt recommends that students get at least nine out of ten right to move on. Answers to these are in the back of the book. The final BRIDGE has 15 questions (20 in Decimals) and, again, five tries to pass. This gives a student ample opportunity to go back, study the material, and try again without feeling like they've failed. It is built-in remediation, rather than just failing and still going on (isn't this also the way we train our children? If they don't get it right, they need to correct and do it again). Starting in Beginning Algebra, chapters are longer. For courses with the Home Companion available (Advanced Algebra and Trigonometry), this book breaks the chapters into bite-sized lessons. Natural breaks occur when the student encounters a Your Turn to Play (series of problems with completely-worked solutions following), but the Companions also provide sets of problems for each lesson in between. There are 108 lessons as laid out in the Fred's Home Companion Beginning Algebra study guide, but many of these are short; most students would combine some of them. By comparison, Saxon has 120 lessons, but this does not include testing whereas LOF's lesson count does. At the end of each chapter there are six CITIES (which all have names so you can assign a student to do Palmetto and Radcliffe for homework). Actually, I'm not sure why they have names - but, as with BRIDGEs, these determine whether to move forward. They have some review material from previous chapters, but are largely chapter recaps. They take roughly 20-30 minutes to complete and, again, give your student a chance to test, review, and test again (or you might work the first two cities together, assign the next two, and use the final two as tests). The first two CITIES have all answers provided; the next two have only odd answers shown; the last two have none. All answers not in the text are in the Home Companion or Answer Key. The back of each upper-level book (except Calculus) has an A.R.T. section (All Reorganized Together) containing definitions, formulae, theorems postulates - all the stuff you'd like summarized in one handy place together for easy reference. The Life of Fred actually begins in the Calculus as serious as it needs to be book (in which Fred is born), the first written (in 2001). Unlike the other volumes, it has all the Your Turn to Play questions and answers in the back and a Further Ado section containing even more rigorous material for you to include at your discretion. Possibly because this volume was originally written for college students, the material is edgier in this first book (Fred's dad drinks, his family is somewhat dysfunctional, and there are other allusions to drugs, alcohol and "hanky panky"). You may wish to skim ahead of your student and "edit" anything unsatisfactory.

So far, I'm giving a thumbs up to this unique (and slightly eccentric) math program. It has made math more palatable (and interesting) for my daughter. It has some unusual and novel approaches to problem solving (like a simple, foolproof method for factoring trinomials where the squared term has a coefficient > 1 instead of the guess and check approach employed in other books). It incorporates critical thinking and a discovery approach to math by its very nature. It integrates the value of learning in other curricular areas. It teaches math in the context of real life - okay, real life uses for math in a kind of surreal life. And, who wouldn't like a math book that begins, "Hi! This is going to be fun," then follows through on that promise? Visit for other Raves from Readers or to find out more about the content of the books - or even to contact the author directly. (You can even read some of Mr. Schmidt's 8:30 prayers). I'm not sure how Dr. Schmidt can include his home phone number on his website and encourage people to email and phone him with questions, but I have read several testimonies to his responsiveness. For a full scope and sequence, visit our website and take a peek at the table of contents for each level.

As a teacher, I have obviously enjoyed this course. But my daughter, Janine, has never had the innate appreciation for math that I do. Let's ask her what she thought (or thinks - we still have 14 lessons to go!). Here are her comments on Life of Fred Beginning Algebra as serious as it needs to be:

"I love Life of Fred because of, well, Fred! But also because this is the most creative math course I've ever seen. When I first looked at the math course, the thing that made me excited (besides the story) was not seeing millions of problems. Just a few, thought-provoking and even funny ones. In the lesson book, you'll only have one small page, then you can be done. The Cities don't even have that many problems. But they are all worth your time and un-repetitive, and most inspire a challenge or are a little puzzle. Mom didn't think it would be a full-fledged math course. But the more we've worked through it, I've seen that it's quite a bit harder and requires more thinking. No wonder it's been put on some "gifted" lists. Moving along... .the writing is HILARIOUS! It's almost like Stanley Schmidt and I have the same sense of humor sometimes. I've read Fractions and most of Begininng Algebra and enjoyed both immensely. It's a ridiculous, bizarre little series, which makes me love it all the more! My brother likes it so much he showed it to his college friends... and of course they all laughed. The characters are amazing, and the illustrations (especially of Fred) are priceless. Stanley even has a little fun subtly (and not so subtly) teasing movies, doctors, math books and a whole myriad of things, and he has never failed at amusing me. Math was my most hated subject. And while I can't say that I had a complete turnaround and wake up every morning saying "YAY! I get to do math today! Wheeeeee!" I can say that Life of Fred has taken all the dullness out, keeps me captivated, and injected a lot of fun. I'd call it an art piece, if a math book can be an art piece. An amazing, amazing series, even more so considering we're talking about a math course."

Well, there you have it - from teacher and student. Who says math can't be entertaining?

Category Description for Life of Fred:

Life of Fred (LOF) is an unconventional series of math texts that seem accessible and friendly, especially for students who dislike traditional programs. According to Dr. Schmidt, the author, this series is designed to teach you the math you need to know without repetition, redundancy, and a multitude of problems to work. LOF follows the storyline of Fred's life while incorporating solid math concepts and skills. Motivated or independent students will appreciate this series, as well as gifted math students who might need a challenge. Written to the student and intended to be self-teaching, the author prefers that students use these with very little help from you, so they can learn to study and understand on their own. Even the solutions (found in the text) are addressed to the student. In fact, there's a lot of actual instruction in the solutions, which students should read after trying to solve problems on their own. Math in a story context can sometimes make more sense to students than stand-alone math concepts - especially if it's an entertaining story! Students do two books per year up through pre-algebra; beginning with algebra, one book per year.


Primary Subject
Grade Start
Grade End
Stanley F. Schmidt
Hardcover Book
Brand Name
Polka Dot Publishing
1.7188 (lbs.)
10.38" x 7.25" x 0.9"
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Why did you choose this?
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Preparing 9th Grader to quickly achieve mastery without redundant problems like other math curriculum. Also books are engaging to reader/student and student wants to do the problems (especially because there are few required).
Sigrid on Mar 16, 2023
My son has advanced reading skills.
anna c on Jan 2, 2023
Preparing 9th Grader to quickly achieve mastery without redundant problems like other math curriculum. Also books are engaging to reader/student and student wants to do the problems (especially because there are few required).
Sigrid on Mar 16, 2023
We love the word problems in Life of Fred.
Kasey P on Mar 8, 2023
My son has advanced reading skills.
anna c on Jan 2, 2023
14 yo has enjoyed the LOF math books prior to these. Stick with what works!
Anna K on Sep 7, 2022
my child loves science
Natasha B on Apr 3, 2022
It's the next one in the series.
Kelly H on Apr 14, 2021
adding next level of math to our collection. our kids love these books!
Elaine D on Mar 10, 2021
I really like LoF curriculum and the different math experience it provides. <br />Connecting math to real life is much more meaningful for many students.
Sharon B on Mar 4, 2021
Our kids have been going through the Life of Fred series and love them.
Patricia S on Jan 13, 2021
My kids love Life of Fred books. They fly through them with little to no help.
Jennifer R on Aug 18, 2020
I love these books
Stephanie D on Aug 11, 2020
Can't wait to read the next LOF book!
Shanon P on Jul 23, 2020
We've loved the previous books in this series
Cynthia A on Jul 1, 2020
We chose the Life of Fred books because it's learning in the form of story-telling. Also, because of the real life applications. It helps to make math more entertaining, relatable and relevant to a student in my opinion.
Amanda P on Jun 22, 2020
I have been searching for a math book that would actually teach math! I've come across so many practice books, leaving me frustrated and doing internet searches so I could learn how to do the math, so I could teach my children! (I excelled in grammar; math, not so much!) After reviewing the sample material I fell in love with Fred and believe my student will love him, too! What a brilliant way to engage students, and leave them wanting more! I am very excited about this math book!
Anne Marie on Jun 12, 2020
I love the Life of Fred Series. My daughter is now enjoying math with the addition of science! She's always loved Fred, but math was a bummer for her. Not anymore!! Just moving up through the books all the way!
Amanda S on Feb 21, 2020
It comes after Pre-Algebra 0...We love Fred!!
KELLY O on Aug 21, 2019
My daughter has loved all of the Life of Fred books so far. She actually learns and retains the information versus prior experiences with worksheets and drills. I love how she has actually used the information in her everyday life, like knowing how much ribbon is needed to go around a mirror because she has learned how to find the circumference of a circle (she knew this without my help!). She looks forward to math lessons instead of dreading them.
Lori D on Apr 29, 2019
Gift request
Apple G on Nov 26, 2018
Recommended by other homeschool moms
Hailey A on Jul 18, 2018
Success with LOF Fractions & Decimals
Claudine W on Mar 21, 2018
Christin F on Jan 26, 2018
My kids are loving life of Fred, and although they may not work through all the intermediate books, they want to be darn sure they don't miss any of Fred's adventures. It's a weird reason to be buying math books, I know.
Dawn S on Dec 13, 2017
Recommended by a friend whose kids loved the easy reading and at the same time learning a lot ...
Ewa L on Nov 20, 2017
I have heard it is great so we needed something different to try and we chose this.
Michaele K on Sep 29, 2017
Life of Fred is the best for those students who stuggle with learning math. It is super entertaining and so much to learn from these books, not only math, but SO much more!
Amy M on Aug 22, 2017
I love the living books type approach this curriculum has. I also enjoy the out of the box style. My kids love the story and learn a lot just from reading through them.
Shelly G on May 16, 2017
My three older children all used Teaching Textbooks - which I love. However, because Life of Fred has such great reviews, I thought I would try them with my youngest son. Middle school math is so redundant, I wanted to try something enjoyable.
Margaret B on Mar 13, 2017
My son just finished the Pre-Algebra 0 Physics and absolutely loved it. I'm buying the rest of this series for Pre-Algebra!
Emily W on Jan 25, 2017
My son has been using LOF for the past three years and this curriculum has taught him so much about math concepts - more than any other curriculum we have used. He is challenged by this curriculum and has developed independent learning skills as well as the desire to do well. LOF takes the edge off of learning math and makes it fun.
Lauralei C on Jan 15, 2017
My daughter loves reading 'for fun' and Life of Fred allows her to read at her leisure while reinforcing her understanding of concepts (math and science) that she is covering through her more typical academic work.
Shelayne H on Jan 4, 2017
We have just finished another LOF book, so we are continuing with the series
Brooke G on Nov 10, 2016
love life of fred books
kerry j on Aug 20, 2016
"We currently use the "Life of Fred" series and love it."
sheila w on Aug 13, 2016
My boys both 14 & 17 are really loving LOF! This is just the next book in line to complete for our youngest.
Amy B on Jun 23, 2016
Can't say enough good things about Life of Fred. We're continuing with the series, and this same book will get used by subsequent children, making it the best math bargain out there. That said, LOF as a means of math instruction is priceless in this house.
Kirsten K on Apr 29, 2016
My daughters are homeschooled and enjoy using Life of Fred for their math curriculum.
Danielle S on Apr 26, 2016
We just love LOF! For fourth grade we decided to try a different approach with math. It is suggested to start with Apples and complete the elementary series, before starting the Intermediate Series. We were able to complete both series for fourth grade. This year for fifth grade we started with LOF Pre-Algebra 0 With Physics. We are almost through with it, so it's on to LOF Pre-Algebra With Biology. Fred is our choice for all things math. Fred Rocks!!
User on Jan 12, 2016
My kids use Saxon, but we supplement with Life of Fred for additional information, extra practice and understand, and those times when we can't do a full math lesson, but don't want to completely skip math. This week is Thanksgiving, for example, and I needed them to still do math on Monday and Tuesday, but I couldn't help, because I was baking and preparing for the holiday. So, Life of Fred it is!
Candace W on Nov 27, 2015
We love the word problems in Life of Fred.
Kasey P on Mar 8, 2023
14 yo has enjoyed the LOF math books prior to these. Stick with what works!
Anna K on Sep 7, 2022
4.5 / 5.0
2 Reviews
5 Stars
4 Stars
3 Stars
2 Stars
1 Star
Rated 4 out of 5
Fun read
My child enjoyed the books, it was a fun read. Unfortunately the problems are too easy.
February 9, 2016
over 7 years ago
Rated 5 out of 5
YEAH for Life of Fred!!! I ordered the Fractions and Decimals books for my reluctant son Now the first thing he does in the mornings after reading his devotional is say "Mom may I do my math FIRST?" I have told him repeatedly you do not have to ask!!! Before math was � well not pleasant for any involved! I also want to note that I have not seen a more economical math program (any program really other than Apologia elementary science books) for the price! It is an unbelievable deal These books can be used again and again I love the size and so does my son He too wants to do more than one lesson a day When I told him I would be asking him to start the Decimals and Percents book (and use it throughout the summer) after he finishes the Fractions book his face just lit up! I don't know if the books will work for my 2nd grade son but he is already reading over his older brother's shoulder so I may just let him try it one day He is already multiplying and dividing so we'll see My son who is using LOF is 11 and in 5th grade Hope this helps another reluctant math student to learn to LOVE math again and to see how useful it truly is b/c Fred is great at teaching that concept as well
April 20, 2010

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