Life of Fred Math Curriculum Review – The Pros and Cons

life of fred math curriculum review

If you’re thinking about using the Life of Fred curriculum for your homeschool, you’ll love this in-depth review! 

We started using the Life of Fred math curriculum after several years of using Saxon Math exclusively. 

Saxon was a great fit for most of my kids – particularly for my visual and auditory learners. But after several years of following Saxon to the letter, we were all getting a little bit bored with math.

One day at our homeschool co-op, a friend of mine had her son’s Life of Fred calculus book on the table, and it caught my eye. 

I asked her if she’d mind if I thumbed through it, and I was really impressed with what I saw. (I’m sure the fact that I remember zero percent of my high school calculus experience had nothing to do with it, right?!) 

She stressed how much her kids enjoyed the Life of Fred homeschool math curriculum, and I decided to do some more research. 

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Overview of Life of Fred Math

Life of Fred is a great math curriculum for kids because it tells the story of a 5-year-old math genius, Fred, who lives and works at KITTENS University. 

The author, Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D., writes this in the introduction of the very first book: 

“When I taught at the high school and college levels, the most frequent question that … I got was, ‘Why are we studying this stuff?’ … Few students have the courage to ask, ‘And why are we learning how to simplify fractions?” They just bow their heads and suffer through it.” 

“In contrast, in the Life of Fred series, every piece of mathematics first happens in Fred’s everyday life; he needs it, and then we do it.” 

The first ten books of the Life of Fred curriculum are part of the Elementary Series. 

They all have fun titles, such as: 

Each book contains 18-19 chapters. Every chapter is about 4-6 pages of story and illustration about Fred’s experiences with a short “Your Turn to Play” section at the end. Answers to the “Your Turn to Play” questions are on the following page. 

By the final book of the Elementary series, Jellybeans, kids are finding the mode and average of a set of numbers, counting by twelves, reading graphs and charts of all kinds, and understanding volume. 

While purchasing 10 separate books may seem daunting, you can often find bundle deals on Amazon, like this complete Life of Fred elementary series 10-book bundle for a very affordable price!

homeschool math for kids

Life of Fred Intermediate Series

Next, the Life of Fred Intermediate series books are titled: 

These books are intended for upper elementary grades, approximately 4th grade. These are the books that really prepare kids for working with decimals, fractions, and percents. 

They’re structured exactly the same as the Elementary series and can also be found as a 3-book bundle as well!

Life of Fred Middle School series

There are five books in the middle school series, although the first two could be started in 5th grade if your child is ready.

The titles are:

This is the first series where additional practice problem books (titled Zillions of Practice Problems – how fun, right?) are also offered as an accompaniment to the main textbook.

These practice problem books are incredibly helpful for giving your kids more math practice, and I highly recommend them!

Again, there is the cost-saving option to buy these as a 5-book bundle, making your entire middle school math curriculum very affordable in comparison to other homeschool math curriculums!

life of fred middle school series

Life of Fred High School

The books for the Life of Fred math for high school are:

  • Beginning Algebra
  • Zillions of Practice Problems for Beginning Algebra
  • Advanced Algebra
  • Zillions of Practice Problems for Advanced Algebra
  • Geometry – Expanded Edition
  • Trigonometry – Expanded Edition

It’s definitely easiest to find these in a bundle because by this time you’ll want the extra practice books for sure!

The High School Set 1 has both algebra books as well as the accompanying practice books.

High School Set 2 includes both geometry and trigonometry in their expanded editions.

There are additional books in the Life of Fred College series, and the ones most typically used for high school would be Calculus and the Statistics Expanded Editions. Both of these come with a helpful answer booklet too.

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life of fred math review

Pros about using Life of Fred math curriculum

The biggest pro about Life of Fred is that it IS incredibly enjoyable for kids! My kids spent hours reading through each of the books, laughing and giggling the whole way through. 

It felt really awesome (and strange!) to tell my son he had to stop reading his math book and come to dinner. 

Presenting math as an engaging story definitely did two things in our homeschool:

  1. It took away the drudgery of repeating long problem sets over and over
  2. It provided a real-life context for using math

I never had to remind my kids to do their math for the day or hear any complaining about how bored they were. 

In fact, more often than not, I’d be the one telling them they had to stop doing math for the day and move on to a different subject!

Finally, the Life of Fred series is one of the most affordable homeschool math curriculums on the market!

With most books available on Amazon and other homeschool retailers, there are no exorbitant prices for any of the books from elementary through high school level. (This even includes adding in the practice problem books for the upper grades!)

Free Resource Library

While you’re here, be sure to check out the Free Resource Library for Homeschool Moms!

It’s filled with useful printables to help you organize your homeschool. Grab the free 100 Number Chart, Book Report Form, or Unit Study Planner – or whatever else suits your fancy!

newly updated resource library

Cons about using Life of Fred math curriculum for homeschool

While Life of Fred is a very delightful and refreshing homeschool math curriculum, it does have its flaws.

First, the most common complaint about Life of Fred is that there are very few practice problems following each chapter, usually only 4-6. 

While my kids had no problem with this at all, I was left wondering how much their math skills were really sinking in. 

For the middle school and high school years, the lack of practice material has been satisfied with the addition of practice problem books.  

Another minor flaw about the Life of Fred homeschool math curriculum is that it presents high school math out of sync with most other math curriculums.

Instead of following the more typical pre-algebra, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus track, Life of Fred combines both algebra years together. 

This isn’t a huge deal if your child can get through geometry before he or she takes the PSAT. But your child has only finished both algebras, he or she will miss covering necessary skills for these big tests. 


Great ways to supplement Life of Fred math

Because Life of Fred is so much fun, it is a great addition to many traditional homeschool math curriculums. It can really bring some enjoyment back to math if your child is struggling or seems disengaged. 

Both Saxon Math and Khan Academy are great homeschool math curriculums that would be complimented well by Life of Fred. 

For example, you could have your kid complete their regular math curriculum assignments on Monday-Thursday, and allow him or her to do Life of Fred math on Fridays. 

Or when your child finishes a math unit, he or she could enjoy reading a few chapters in Life of Fred as a great review for what they’ve just learned in Khan or Saxon. 

Related Post: 5 Awesome Homeschool Math Curriculums You Need to Check Out

Finally, if you choose to use the Life of Fred homeschool math curriculum exclusively, it’s a good idea to have math facts flashcards or an app such as Math Facts Master for basic math facts memorization. 

Additional books that make homeschool math more fun

If you’re looking for a few other ideas to make math as fun as Life of Fred makes it, check out these books, all available on Amazon: 

The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang. An incredibly fun picture book that kids love! He has several other great math picture books, but this one is our favorite.

The Sir Cumference series by Cindy Neuschwander. With clever titles such as Sir Cumference and the Fraction Faire or Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens, kids and adults can really enjoy this great series!

The Math Inspectors series by Daniel Kenney. A fun chapter book series for third grade and up!

Final thoughts about Life of Fred curriculum review

Although we’ve now transitioned away from the Life of Fred as our primary homeschool math curriculum, we kept every single book because my kids couldn’t bear to part with them. 

To sum everything up, I feel that Life of Fred is a fantastic supplement for a traditional math curriculum, but it is just a little bit lacking when it comes to being a stand-alone homeschool math curriculum. 

Every now and then I’ll see my kids curled up in their favorite living room chair, giggling away at Fred’s hilarious adventures with math.

And anytime this happens, I smile too and am so glad we’ve had Life of Fred as a part of our homeschool. 

Related articles about homeschool curriculum:

Homeschool Unit Studies – What are They? And Why Do People Love Them? 

5 Reasons Why We Love Story of the World for Homeschool History

What are your thoughts about this Life of Fred curriculum review?

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Life of Fred Math Curriculum Review - The Pros and ConsLife of Fred Math Curriculum Review - The Pros and ConsLife of Fred Math Curriculum Review - The Pros and ConsLife of Fred Math Curriculum Review - The Pros and Cons

Hi there! I’m so glad you’re here! I’m Jen, a former reluctant homeschool mom who is ready to help you actually enjoy homeschooling too. Read more here…

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3 thoughts on “Life of Fred Math Curriculum Review – The Pros and Cons”

  1. Thank you for the review!
    I am a reluctant and new homeschool mom starting a curriculum for my 9th grader son!
    I would appreciate all wisdom on curricula selection.

    1. Hi Katie, I searched the Life of Fred website and checked their FAQ’s. There is a lot of information about how to list Life of Fred on high school transcripts, but I didn’t see any official approvals from any organization.

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