Monday, April 20, 2015

Life of Fred Math - Finally Gess Loves Math!

As most of you know by now, Gess has Down syndrome. She is a bright girl, can read very well, has great problem solving skills, has a great interest in science, and has a great love for learning. Our struggle is with math. She gets the concepts of what we are doing and with helps can do her basic problems. At age 13 she can now tell time, count money, measure ingredients, add and subtract with objects, but she struggles with memorized facts and therefore can't do problems in her head.

Even with what she can do, math is still very difficult and therefore she doesn't like it. All during the school day she never complained, until it was time for math. "It's too hard" she would fret and for a child with special needs that is the truth. It's not hard the way we think of hard. Her mind simply doesn't work that way. Gess is not the type of kid who will complain and whine over every little thing, but math, for Gess, is extremely hard.

The memorization thing gets me because she is awesome when it comes to memorizing Scripture. She can memorize long passages and her list of known verses is longer than most adults I know!  She remembers rules and regulations. Once you tell her how to do something, she always does it that way. She also remembers things for a very long time, she will remember facts that happened years ago and bring them up as if they happened yesterday. However, when you throw numbers into the mix, she just freezes. With the helps of visuals we have gotten her doubles down but that doesn't carry over when the numbers are different. We can get all the facts down of one number, but when you mix the problems up she gets flustered.

So we moved on and allowed her to use helps and she does math fairly well, but she still didn't like it. It's also never been a subject she could do alone. Even with online curriculum she would need help. Then a friend told me about Life of Fred and I have to say, I am thrilled with the change.


You see Life of Fred doesn't teach math the way every other curriculum teaches math. They do it through stories. It is the story of a boy named Fred. This Fred is a very unique individual that makes the reader want to learn more about him. Fred is 5 years old and is the instructor of algebra at Kittens University in Kansas.

The story is so entertaining that I enjoy it too. Fred learns math while going about his day. While his day is anything but typical it shows how math is important in every day life. When you come to a math problem its part of the story so you don't really think about the fact that you are learning math. You are just enjoying it and happen to pick up information along the way! What is really cool is that you learn more than just math. They throw all kinds of fascinating information in there. There is music, reading, science, and health just to name a few of the other subjects you bump into.

Now when its time for math Gess doesn't cringe anymore, she gets excited!  She has wanted to do more than one lesson a day and absolutely loves these stories. She is also able to do some of this on her own and is even starting to pick up some of the math facts!  I thought I would never see that!
I have to admit I am not sure if we would have had this much success when Gess was younger. While she is 13 I started way back at book one because I didn't want her to miss anything. I am not sure if she would have picked it up so quickly if she wasn't able to read it herself. But so far, she is anxious to get to math each day because she can't wait to see what is happening with Fred.

So let me show you how Fred works and what makes it so great. Here is a page from Fred's story.


On the page above you will notice there is no math yet. Just Fred getting ready to go out in the cold, but wait, his nose is cold. He tries to figure out how to make it warm. If he takes off his glove and uses it, his nose is warm but his hand is cold. Next he tries his earmuffs and that works because Fred doesn't have any ears! Then they pause and see what Fred would look like with ears! Its cute and has you interested!  Then Fred goes back to his office at the university and there they talk about how many days of the week he has classes (learning time) and how many floors he climbed (learning ordinal numbers). Then he talks about his algebra lesson with his doll Kingie. Now, his doll never talks back, but Fred understands him! The lesson on the page is 3 ducks + 4 ducks = 7 ducks and they talk about how silly Fred's ducks look. Then Kingie draws his own paper and you see it again with better looking ducks. They just repeated the problem while focused on the picture in the problem, not the fact that you are staring at another problem! Genius!  Here is a page that shows some math during a story in a different chapter where Fred is cooking up bacon and eggs.


At the end of each chapter (which at his point is only a few pages long) you don't do math problems, it's "Your Turn To Play."


There are only a few problems covering what you learned. They will be repeated in many different ways throughout the book, but they won't be repeated all at once, drilling a student into submission. Gess looks at this amount of problems as doable. A math worksheet freaks her out! As she has become more familiar with the books she has been able to do many of these pages without help because the story has really done a great job at teaching the problem. Having her do math alone is a huge milestone for us!


She is also picking up her facts a little better. Because the facts happen in the story she is thinking of these numbers as something concrete. When she thinks of 5+2 she is remembering there are 5 weekdays and 2 days in the weekend making 7 days in a week. Man that helped!  For 5+4 she might think of butterflies or envision the vending machines lining the hall of the cafeteria in Kittens University. This added visual "experience" is helping her better retain her facts! Not without confusion, but now with reminders from the story the answers come. I  am hopeful that will improve with time. It is still better than any other thing we have tried.

Now I don't know if this works with kids with special needs who are very young because we didn't use it then. I don't know if they will pick it up so well before they can read, but I do know that if you try and the math doesn't take they will certainly enjoy the adventure and learn something!  Even as adults, my husband and I both enjoy this!  In fact, they have segments just for us grown ups!


I just love their sense of humor! Because there is so much more to learn besides just math, I recommend at least giving Life of Fred a whirl.  Start with book 1, Apples.


You won't be disappointed!  I just wish I had known about this sooner. Oh wait, the copyright is 2013, maybe it just didn't exist then!  I am just glad my daughter has stopped complaining that math is too hard and now jumps up and down when her math books come in the mail! After all our struggles with math that, to me, is a miracle!

1 comment:

Renee K. said...

I just bought this set for my 12 year old daughter. I am hoping it will help her have a better understanding. I haven't started it yet as starting anything new makes me nervous. I have spent so much money teaching my daughter with special needs that it almost embarrassing!

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