A few months ago I blogged on The Life of Fred math textbooks, and figured it was time for an update.
But first, a refresher. They're written in story form. Lessons are taught through the tale of a genius child by the name of Fred. They’re self-published and far from great literature, but I do know of kids who love them and have learned a great deal from them.
When we attended the Colorado conference this last summer, Teen Daughter fell in love with them and worked in the Beginning Algebra book all the way home to Michigan and through the beginning of the school year.
Now, months later, she's ditched poor Fred for John. John H. Saxon, Jr. that is. Yep, she's back to Saxon. I asked her why, and she told me, "Life of Fred just didn't explain things well enough for me." She is the daughter of a former math geek, so maybe Saxon appeals to her for it's straight forward approach. She's also the daughter of an editor and writer, evident by her next comment, "He also needs an editor. Bad!"
There is another update on these textbooks. There is some innuendo, and fleeting references to drugs and drinking, in the Beginning Algebra text. They went over my head upon my first reading. (I suppose I'm not as worldly as I imagined.)
I have mixed feelings about these references. First, they need to be taken in context. Fred, the boy genius, is fighting bad guys and bad guys sometimes deal in drugs. Also, the author, Dr. Schmidt, is a good Christian man (I've met him personally) who is writing for public school kids as well as homeschooled kids.
On the other hand, is it really a math book's place to make social commentary? Do I really want my kids coming to me asking, "What is strip poker?" or "What is a meth lab?" It's bad enough they're introduced to the evils of the world in so many other places. Can't I at least have a safe harbor in our math studies? But then, my permanent black marker can work wonders.
I'll leave it up to you to decide if Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra is worth your money. If you're thinking about purchasing the text for your homeschool, get a copy in your hands so you can judge for yourself. Either check out a friend's copy, or look at it when you attend your next homeschooling conferences.
Now, here are those references, with page numbers:
23: "After the first evening that they played, the students realized that they had better not play for their usual stakes of quarters. Fred had cleaned them out. If it had been strip poker, Fred would have owned a lot of clothes much too large for himself."
165: "Fred and Jack had finished their Sunday afternoon jog. A couple of hours were enough for their first run together. They passed the other eleven recruits who were in the rec hall into their third hour of watching reruns of "As the Girl Churns" on television."
165: "This truck was carrying grass . . . the lawn kind. Maybe that's why it was operating during the daytime."
167: "The Colonel moved several six-pound bags of white powder from the top of his desk into a desk drawer and came right to the point, "I hear that you know something about math and measurements. Is that true?""
250: "An empty beer can flew out of the window and in several seconds it was quiet again."
272: "Jack rang the bell at the Colonel's mansion and they were greeted by the maid with her breathy voice, "Hi boys!" This use of "boys" seemed strange to Jack since he was 22 years old and she seemed about six years younger than he."
273: "There were chemistry books which surprised the chaplain. They were mostly lab manuals telling how to make certain, possibly illicit, chemicals and how to avoid having the lab explode when dealing with volatile liquids such as ascetone. He remembered that when the maid had brought them to the library they had passed a steel-plated door with "M-Lab" painted on the door. He knew it didn't stand for Methodist Lab."
(Addendum: Yet another update -- Life of Fred 2nd edition removes or changes some of these references.)