Ready, Set, GO!!

Its the third week of August, and I can feel the winds changing! Yes indeed, my friends. The school year is approaching once again!

There are two additions to my treasure trove of curriculum that has me particularly giddy this year. The first is a math book named for a precocious little professor that goes by “Fred”. The Life of Fred is a series of math books covering everything from fractions through calculus and trigonometry (as well as biology and economics). However, what makes Fred so different from other Math curriculum is that it is specifically written with the “math-phobic” in mind. Fred’s creator (Stanley Schmidt, Ph.D) has had plenty of experiences with less than enthusiastic math students. After teaching on both a high school and college level for over 15 years, Dr. Schmidt began developing stories about “Fred” to help his students see the relevance that math had in their own lives. With his famous tagline “as serious as it needs to be”, Dr. Schmidt promises to take a light hearted approach that immediately puts students at ease. In one book (The Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra and Biology) Fred begins to have dreams about various strange objects. In an effort to discover what the meaning of these dreams might be, Fred explores what the objects have in common. He begins grouping them (living vs. non living things) and then breaking them down into fractions (three ducks out of eight living things, etc.). Students don’t even realize they are doing math (or biology) until the questions begin to get more complex. By that time, your former “math-phobic” is shocked to find that math really does make sense! As they read about Fred’s experiences and learn how to apply those experiences to the problem solving process, math seems to come alive. It’s no longer simply “learning the steps” to solving various problems and equations; its understanding why we take those steps and how it makes sense when used in the real world.

My second addition to our curriculum is a science book that follows Fred’s lead. Rather than presenting science as a list of facts and figures for students to memorize, Joy Hakim presents “The Story of Science” as a historical narrative. As students are pulled into the lives of great scientists of the past, they are able to discover what motivated these great men and woman to study science in the first place. Ms. Hakim’s science series also follows the classical method by presenting each book in chronological order starting with the ancients (Aristotle, Pythagoras, etc.) and progressing through to more modern thinkers (Einstein, etc.). Because of this very intentional progression from the earliest discoveries to more recent discoveries students are also exposed to each idea in a progressive way. They start with the same basic observations that ancient scientists would have made (how the stars move, how motion and momentum affect objects, how things can be measured in a logical way, etc.) and build on those observations as they become more and more complex.

As much as I love this science series and will whole-heartedly be using it with my own children, I do want to give a quick word of warning. Science can be a very controversial subject (regardless of your personal religious views), and you may not agree with all of its views concerning the origins of life, etc. Though this book does include a great deal of content from a variety of literary and religious sources it does not promote the views of one religion over another. It also promotes “mainstream” scientific theories over alternative theories. If you are not comfortable presenting the debated material to your students, you might want to stick with a curriculum that is more in line with your specific religious views.

With that said, I believe that perhaps the most appealing thing about both of these books is that they are very flexible when it comes to age ranges. Even though I have four kids ranging from 4th -9th grade, I will be able to use The Story of Science with all of them. Though I won’t be using Fred with all of my kids just yet (I plan on keeping my younger two in Saxon math until they get through fractions) it has also claimed to work well with students of all ages.

Share This Article:

Leave A Comment


Please enter the word you see in the image below: