We love Fred

Fred is five-and-a-half years old. He got ripped off when he bought himself a bicycle (ended up paying $1600 instead of the original $200). He was buying a bicycle because he wanted to wear a bike helmet but thought it would look uncool to wear a helmet without a bike.

Then he dropped a large knife and it went right through his foot. His friends carried him to the hospital, but the doctors and nurses didn’t act fast enough and he ended up losing half his blood. It was the janitor who noticed that there was a pretty big problem (he was mopping up all the blood so it was kind of obvious) and advised the doctor to stick a “two plus two” into his arm, and of course, since two plus two equals four, he was referring to an IV.

I should also mention that Fred is an extremely popular college professor. When he teaches his classes, the room is packed with eager students, as well as journalists, bloggers, TV reporters, and even a sculptor working to capture the moment.

And we love him just as much as everyone else does. He makes us laugh and teaches us math in between giggles.

In case you haven’t already figured this out, Fred isn’t real. He’s just the main character in a series of math books that starts with fractions and goes right up through calculus, statistics, and linear algebra, but boy oh boy, is he ever amazing.

This is my new favorite book and I feel rather evangelical about it. (And no, nobody is passing me big bucks under the table to write all this good stuff about Fred—I just am. BECAUSE I’M SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED.)

My sister-in-law owns the whole series—a bunch of hardback, nonconsumable books, each book ranging in price from $19.00 to $49.00. (When you consider that one year of Saxon math costs around $150, you’ll understand how much of a steal the Fred books are.) I’ve only purchased the first one because I wanted to make sure we liked it, but next time I order I’ll be getting a whole bunch.

We are CRAZY about Fred.

It’s not just me, either. Earlier this week when I didn’t have much time for homeschooling and told Yo-Yo he could pick a subject and I’d pick another one, he promptly chose Fred. And when Mr. Handsome comes home from work, Yo-Yo sometimes reads him the entire lesson/story just because it’s so stinkin’ entertaining.

The other thing I love about Fred is that we’re (I say “we” because I fully participate in each lesson—I can’t help myself) learning more than just math. There’s also history and grammar, manners and science, and literature and art.

And get this. There are no endless columns of practice problems like you used to have in grade school. There’s simply the lesson and a few problems, of all sorts and all jumbled together, and then you move on to the next lesson. Boredom is not an issue.

When we started the series a month ago, Yo-Yo didn’t really know any math above basic addition, subtraction and simple multiplication (and even that was/is sometimes slow and belabored), and he had never done long division, but we jumped right into Fred’s world and with a bit of extra explaining, he was fine.

Want to read more about Fred? Here’s the website, here’s where you order, here’s an interview with Fred’s creator, and here’s Fred’s creator’s website. Since I ordered our Fred book, two more homeschooling friends have placed their orders, one non-homeschooling mom has ordered, and my father toted the book to school to show to one of the math teachers.

Fred is where it’s at, man. I’m tellin’ you.

This same time, years previous: Greek Pasta Salad, hard knocks (involves blood), retreat (ha!)


  • Kate

    Hey Jennifer,

    We just keep the colored number pattern pages in a notebook and let the kids "cheat". They can look at them while doing their math. Eventually they don't need them anymore.

  • Camille

    We like Fred around here too. Our oldest did some of the algebra book…the only one we own. I actually didn't realize there were more books out there. 🙂

    Have fun!

  • Jennifer Jo

    Hi Kate! Yes, Yo-Yo has done all that you mentioned, squaring, manipulatives, coloring, etc. He even can get the multiplication tables memorized wonderfully…and then he promptly forgets it all. This causes great frustration for both of us, so I've dropped it for now. I'm open to any other advice you (or anyone else) might have…

  • Kate

    To make math facts easier (I can't remember if already told you) try a couple of different things: memorize skip counting by 2-10, 15, and 25. You can make hundreds boards and color in the pattern for each number…like for 15 color in 15, 30, 45, 60 so he can refer to it while doing his math. Have him learn square numbers while you're at it up to a hundred and doubles if he doesn't know them.(8+8…he can make this harder if he wants. Quick, what's 45 +45? See? This is where knowing how to skip count by 15 comes in handy.) Anyway…if he already is sound on his doubles you can work on them with the littler ones. Those few foundational tricks make math SO much simpler. I am working hard to get Liam to master them so we can jump into The Life of Fred in a few years.

  • Kate

    And we…having gone through the whole book of fractions…all but a chapter or two of algebra 1 and six chapters of geometry STILL love Fred. Colin was chuckling over Fred buying a 1/4 ton grill that shot flames three feet high from an eyebrowless salesman. Lots of chortling during math hour here. Glad you are enjoying it!

  • Aili

    I'm. In. Love.
    In about seven years, I'm going to come up to you after church and say, "Hey, who was that math guy? With the bicycle helmet?" Please, at that time, direct me back to Fred. 🙂

    (Actually, I'm considering ordering the first book NOW even though I won't need it for years, just so I don't forget.)

  • You Can Call Me Jane

    Oh, man. At a time when math is the most unpopular subject in our house, this sounds especially interesting. I'll have to go check out what the age/level recommendations are. Thanks!!

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