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    #106122 - 06/30/11 09:00 AM Need some guidance re: Life of Fred
    Terrilth Offline

    Registered: 06/23/11
    Posts: 61
    I need a new math program for my daughters who are 7 and 6. I am interested in this but where to begin? Right now they are doing typical grade 1/grade 2 math work.

    I looked at the 4th book in the elementary series and the concepts are so varied, it's hard to tell where we should begin.

    Thoughts and ideas appreciated!

    #106123 - 06/30/11 09:21 AM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: Terrilth]
    green valley Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 11/11/10
    Posts: 5
    No one can tell with certainty since nobody has used the elementary books yet, they just came out.

    If money is not an issue I would start with the very first book in the series. It is supposed to be about fun anyway, not about hard work. If your DDs are confident readers they will just fly through it and be ready for the more challenging ones in no time.

    My DS6 is going through Fractionsright now and it is a liitle hard for him - long hand division and such. After he finishes it I am going to let him go down a level and go through book 4 of the elementary series ([i]Dogs?)[/i. Just for fun.

    By the way, in every book Stan keeps constantly going on tangents and talks about astronomy, economics, roman numerals name it. So, starting with easier books still lets them learn something.

    Edited by green valley (06/30/11 09:23 AM)

    #106126 - 06/30/11 09:54 AM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: Terrilth]
    Peter Offline

    Registered: 12/16/10
    Posts: 249

    LOF elementary books will not be out until end of July. In the mean time, you can give them Math for gifted kids (flashcards) from B & N. They are great and it should occupy them for the whole summer. My DD7 is doing grade 3 book. Don't let the grade number fool you. Some questions are hard enough for the average 5th grader.

    #106127 - 06/30/11 11:25 AM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: Terrilth]
    Terrilth Offline

    Registered: 06/23/11
    Posts: 61
    Thanks Peter! I didn't know the elementary books were brand new. I really like the looks of them though and think I'll start w/the first one.

    #106143 - 06/30/11 03:47 PM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: Terrilth]
    Sweetie Offline

    Registered: 06/05/11
    Posts: 669
    I am going to start with the first one for my 6 year old.
    ...reading is pleasure, not just something teachers make you do in school.~B. Cleary

    #106245 - 07/02/11 09:32 PM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: Terrilth]
    erich Offline

    Registered: 11/11/10
    Posts: 97
    Loc: Illinois
    DS9 read LOF 3 or 4 pre-algebra books two years ago. He loved it. Once he finished the Beginning Algebra, he went on AoPS and be able to tackle some real math problems.

    #107292 - 07/18/11 10:02 PM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: Terrilth]
    jenbrdsly Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 07/16/11
    Posts: 31
    Here is my review of Life of Fred Fractions:

    I think it makes an okay supplement, but not an entire Afterschooling curriculum.

    #107301 - 07/19/11 05:04 AM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: jenbrdsly]
    Bostonian Offline

    Registered: 02/14/10
    Posts: 2600
    Loc: MA
    Originally Posted By: jenbrdsly
    Here is my review of Life of Fred Fractions:

    I think it makes an okay supplement, but not an entire Afterschooling curriculum.

    Your review says,

    'I still really like the book a lot, but Iím less impressed by it as we near the end. I think the author relies too much on traditional algorithms to teacher mathematical concepts. This is completely contrary to my approach to teaching math, which is Constructivist in philosophy. (For more information on Constructivism, please see my post at:

    Earlier in the book, it was easy to do a lot of Constructivist activities and explanations side by side with Life of Fred. To compare, order, reduce, add and subtract fractions for example, Bruce experimented with the Right Start Fraction strips in addition to working with the algorithms taught in Life of Fred. So when the book talked about 2/6 being the same as 1/3, Bruce really understood that well, because he could build those fractions himself.'

    <end of excerpt>

    I use EPGY with my 5.9 yo boy, who is now working on fractions among other topics. We have never used manipulatives, but he has learned a lot of math and is quite interested in it. I don't think all children need manipulatives. More broadly, I am skeptical of "constructivism" in education. Thanks for your review -- I don't mean these comments as criticism. Parents' views of curricula will be influenced by their philosophies of education.

    "To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle." - George Orwell

    #107324 - 07/19/11 09:43 AM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: Terrilth]
    jenbrdsly Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 07/16/11
    Posts: 31
    Here is a better review of Constructivism. Maybe I can change your mind! smile

    #107331 - 07/19/11 10:43 AM Re: Need some guidance re: Life of Fred [Re: Terrilth]
    Iucounu Offline

    Registered: 06/02/10
    Posts: 1457
    Like anything else, constructivism can be over-applied, though it certainly does have a lot of strengths. I read your blog post. I don't think it's accurate to make the sweeping statement, "Once a child learns an algorithm it is as if mathematical thinking stops". In addition I think the "fastest and most efficient way for [a] specific brain to work" will be more and more often a pre-defined algorithm as a child starts learning advanced math, since not all children will unerringly find the most efficient solution to a problem left to their own devices.

    Good math courses will explore the development or construction of specific algorithms in depth, and give plenty of chances for development of problem-solving skills, but to reinvent the wheel by forcing a child to come up with every algorithm would be pointless, and slow down the learning process to a huge degree.

    Developing one's own approach to a problem is a valuable skill that needs practice. There are plenty of other ones, including the ability to take in highly structured information and understand it quickly, then apply it.

    As an example, I taught my son how to do conversions from Roman numerals to base ten, up through 100, in under a minute, after which he was flawless. This is often taught as a math skill, although one could certainly develop a wonderful math talent without ever learning about Roman numerals; it's more of an encoding/decoding and linguistic skill. But in any event, he learned it quickly, which gave him practice in learning rules and applying them quickly.

    Taking the constructivist approach, I might have given him some samples of Roman numerals and base 10 numbers, then let him figure out the rules himself. That would have given him practice in problem solving, and he might have had fun, since he likes puzzles. In the end I think he gets plenty of practice in such things, though, so in a sense it would have just represented a delay of something else.

    I believe that a strength of constructivism, for early education in math as you've explained it, is simply a focus on what's going on, instead of the notation being used. For example a child certainly could learn long division by rote practice of shuffling numbers and lines around, and do little to increase their math understanding. However I also think a focus on understanding processes involved can be part of teaching; one doesn't have to depend on a student finding the understanding themselves.

    Another strength of educational constructivism as you've explained it is the discouragement of passivity. I think, again, that this is helpful and necessary, but it's not true that simply explaining an algorithm will shut a child's mind off. The devil is in the details of the teaching and the balance of active thinking activities in which a child engages.

    There's simply no reason that a correct understanding of a mental model can only be approached through self-led exploration. Nor can it be true that a child will always learn the best model on their own. When a child's own model is wrong, it gets replaced by the correct one that needs to be taught by the teacher anyway-- or it's not, leading to later confusion.

    ETA: A few links:
    Striving to increase my rate of flow, and fight forum gloopiness. sick

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