Algebra Fred's Way (Life of Fred Math Series)

by Sheri

Life of Fred-Beginning Algebra by Polka Dot Publishing
Beg. Algebra ($29 student text, $14 Home Companion, non-consumable hardbacks)
Used during the 2010/11 school year with HS student

I do believe it could very well have been an Etch-a-Sketch artist who brought a boy named Fred to life-or surely a clever math teacher (the latter is true) in this off the beaten path math program. Add a touch of the National Lampoon's Family vacation's storyline to the adventures of this very studious, amazing 6 year old boy (who knows his math like no other prodigy), and you have a math program that is actually fun to work though.

Written in story form, the Life of Fred series is designed to draw the student into the world of algebraic equations and applications, while remaining lighthearted and understandable. The student is required to "tag along" with Fred while he teaches his pupils (at KITTENS University) the ins and outs of beginning algebra.

Moving through the 12 units (Numbers/Sets, Integers, Equations, Motion/Mixture, Two Unknowns, Exponents, Factoring, Fractions, Square Roots, Quadratic Equations, Functions/Slopes and Inequalities/Absolute Value) the student will cover the basic algebraic know hows needed to "get it" and enjoy the ride doing so. By following the handy Fred's Home Companion: Beginning Algebra book, both teacher and student will know where they are to begin and stop to let each section to "sink in", as well as having additional problem sets (with answers) to further the student's understanding of the process (and in my case, the teacher's too). This is a different approach from usual overload of drill set practicing accompanied by a little bit of instruction. This series has more "chewing the fat" story instruction with less paper to pencil time. Fear not, it takes time to get used to but it is effective and teaches everyone to think-not just move in robotic fashion to find an answer.

After having tried several other math programs, I purchased the first book in the algebra series, for my struggling high school student. We continually found ourselves hitting, no stumbling about and then hitting the wall of "I don't get it." I want my student to graduate knowing at least the basics of algebra (let's face it, we are all not designed to be math loving folks) and this seemed like a good way for her to "get through it."

What we have discovered is that she is not only "just getting by" but she is giggling her way through (What? Math is fun?), rolling her eyes to the crazy story lines (which are cute-although some highlight a Sergeant who could use some time in a food/drink/anger management rehab clinic), and golly gee-she is understanding the basics of algebra (that loathsome word). We actually worked through about half of the program when we felt we needed to go back and read through the story to get the full picture before continuing on. Since this is our first experience with series, we were not used to "reading" through our math lessons-so it does take time to get into the zone (the Fred Zone that is). I do suggest that if your student still raises a questionable eyebrow, that you go back and read it in it's entirety to where you stopped, to get the whole story (instead of snippets of it). All in all, we are quite pleased with the results.

I do wish though that the Companion had every (I mean every) problem worked out and a bit more explanation for the instructor. It would make my job easier, especially since I don't always have time to read the lesson ahead of time. But we have managed. Now, some may feel this is not a complete program-I believe it can be and is. This is a great choice for those students who are not math oriented and need a more gentle approach to learning it (instead of the drill and learn method), and/or have no inclination of pursuing higher math courses in college-and hey, they have to take it again anyway-so why overburden your student unnecessarily? It is a beginning (no pun intended) and should be followed up by the Advanced Algebra set to truly round out the student's algebra experience.

The Life of Fred series is definitely one the most memorable math programs we have encountered in our 16 (plus) years of educating our own, and it is one I absolutely would recommend.

**If you are a uneasy about story lines that discuss kidnapping, "ale" drinking, gorging, and other various Lampoonish behavior, then this may not be a good series for you. I suggest looking through the sample pages to see if it fits your family or not.

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