Homeschool Living Maths – Life of Fred: Butterflies

 Learning Maths with Life of Fred: Butterflies

The girls are still enjoying our hands on approach to maths.  We have just finished learning maths with Life of Fred: Butterflies.  This is book two in the Life of Fred Series, (which can be bought in the UK here) learning lots of new maths concepts.  But first things first….I really liked the idea of revising the concepts the girls had already learnt and was delighted to find this set of revision questions which went along with Life of Fred: Apples.  The girls filled these in over the course of a week.  It was very useful to see what they had internalised and what they hadn’t.

I highlighted in red (for STOP!), on my handy dandy Apples scope and sequence, that which required more work and in green (for GO!) those concepts each child was confident in.  I was blown away by all they knew and retained.  Even B6 pretty much knew and understood everything we had learnt last term.

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Wipe-able Revision Sheets

The Life of Fred Series has lots of built in revision, so I wasn’t too worried, but I do like to have an idea where each child is at, especially as there is a 2 1/2 year age difference between them.  That said, I did create some colourful notepages which I keep inside plastic covers (making them reusable), with lots of topic based questions.  These will make up part of their quiet time box, along with some white board markers to fill them in.  Practice, practice, practice….

Life of Fred: Butterflies

I was aiming to finish Butterflies (book two) over the summer but in reality we only completed half of it so we finished up this term.  I feel very happy with their learning thus far, although there are still days I feel concerned A8 is not where she should be. However, even though that IS the case, one of the main reasons I like the ‘living maths’ approach is the fact that I am so involved.  I now KNOW exactly what she knows and understands.  I think sometimes, with their traditional maths, although they passed the tests they did not fully under why they were doing certain things a certain way.  Now, we don’t move on until I know they are really internalising the mathematics not just the method.

Without further ado, here are the concepts they have been learning…..

Life of Fred: Butterflies – The Actual Lessons

I read out each lesson and then the girls work the questions out on their little notepad attached to a mini clip board.  Having the lesson questions entirely separate from the notebooks means they can feel comfortable messing it up, making mistakes and crossing things out:

Life of Fred: Butterflies

Butterflies has some addition practice in the back which I called out to the girls each day and they completed them in their pads.  I will photocopy the page and laminate it to give the girls practice once we move onto Cats, the next book in the series.

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Notebooks

The girls use their notebooks in a variety of ways.  I prepare fun maths for them to do each day, generally revising topics they have already learnt and perhaps including some they are in the middle of learning.  These pages I expect them to do pretty much independently:Life of Fred: Butterflies

The girls also do any new work in there, recording all they are learning.  This is not independent yet but with each passing book I will be aiming to make it more and more independent.

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Time (minutes)

Butterflies teaches minutes past and to each hour.  Notebooking for this was simply filling in clocks as before.  The girls revised counting in fives, and I found lots of fun ways to notebook the five times tables.  We played with our school clock lots with the girls taking it in turns to  move the clock hands and tell the time.  I also found a bingo type telling the time game which I played with B6.  A8 can tell the time already so it was just revision for her, but B6 enjoyed playing it with me:Life of Fred: Butterflies  As promised we bought B6 and A8 a watch each.  B6 still wasn’t hugely confident (although she definitely knew) so I hoped the watch would help with her confidence.  And finally we listened to Big Ben chime in London, and who won’t be chiming for a while:

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Number Bonds

In Life of Fred: Apples, the girls learnt all about the number bonds of seven.  At the time I didn’t do any teaching other than having them learn it by rote and by counting.  I knew I wanted to teach them using the lessons I used with Lillie when she dropped her maths curriculum and got back to basics with number bonds, but B6 wasn’t quite old enough to understand.  She has really come on in her basic skills over the past few months, so I began teaching number bonds, starting with seven (Apples):

Life of Fred: Butterflies

For A8 this was simple addition revision:

Life of Fred: Butterflies

After we had gone through it a few times, the girls filled in a note page to stick in their journal:

Life of Fred: Butterflies

And we then moved on to Nine (Butterflies).  I included lots and lots of practice in their notebooks, using these number nine worksheets until they were sum perfect.

They made a note page themselves explaining what they had learnt.  This was possibly asking too much (especially of B6), but the ultimate goal of a maths journal is that it is the learner who creates it and not the teacher 🙂

We also played lots of dominoes, where I required each of them to say what each amount on the domino they placed down added up to:Life of Fred: Butterflies

And we played some Tut Maths which focuses on addition and subtraction:

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Yards and Inches

Yards and inches (heights) (Larger distances 100, 50 yards).  I printed off a yard stick onto card.  They used this to measure everyone’s height, which the girls did with the older ones lying down so they could reach 🙂

The girls also measured the length of the track-way up to our house.  Butterflies mentions the correlation between leg lengths and speed – I wanted the girls discover the links themselves.  They had already measured the length of the track road.  Now, I had the girls use their yard stick to measure how long each of their siblings’ legs were (as well as their own legs).  I created a table for them to fill in. They then used a timer to time how long it took each child to run the length of the track road and back again.  They filled in the table.  I then printed a large size graph for them with inches along the x-axis and seconds along the y-axis.  I helped them fill the graph in, read it and find the pattern:

They were able to see (in general) that the longer the leg, the faster the time (B6 is quite fast and beat A9!).

Life of Fred: Butterflies – A Dozen

First of all, I just introduced the word, and used eggs as an example.  Using our fridge egg holder first, I had the girls label each hole with cardinal numbers: Life of Fred: ButterfliesThe girls collected lots of different items and used the egg container as a counter.  I kept reinforcing the idea of a set of a dozen, using the words ‘set’ and ‘dozen’ continuously throughout the lesson.  I asked them to think of other sets of 12.  A9 came up with a pack of pens: They also said months of the year and a set of numbers:This lesson could be extended to include fractions of a dozen (see under fractions below)

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Pounds and Ounces

The girls watched this video, free on Prime, whilst I read the following book (such a good book):

I gave the girls our small kitchen scales to practice weighing lots of dried ingredients in:

They filled in a measuring tab-book which is free from TPT, and stuck it into their notebooks:

And completed a cut and stick work-sheet:

And, for future work they added a conversion chart to the back of their notebooks.

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Multiplication using Money

I read The Multiplying Menace to the girls at regular interviews throughout the term:

The girls practiced counting in ones using 1p, coins, in twos using 2p coins and fives using 5p coins.  I created some note book pages for them out of activity sheets found here.  This is a fantastic website which allows you to put in the parameters you want (in this case 1p, 2p and 5p) and they create the worksheets based on those parameters:

We used a hundreds chart to see the patterns in multiplication:


As well as lots of easy revision:

We played The Green Company’s money game called ‘Loose Change’:

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Collinear Points

Collinear points are 3 or more points across a straight line.  Life of Fred teaches them in relation to the stars in the sky.  This was perfect timing because we are learning all about astronomy in our science this year:

This was great at illustrating how easy it is to link up two points (or stars) in a straight line, how it is fairly easy to line up three points along a straight line, but was progressively harder finding four, or five or even six stars which sat in a direct straight line.  But just to drum it home even more 😉  I printed out a sheet, gave them both a ruler and had them finding as many collinear lines as possible:

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Right Angles

We watched a couple of YouTube videos about right angles and right angles in shapes and then began some work finding right angles around the house:

And making right angles with arms and legs:

One of the things I love about Life of Fred is the authors use of proper mathematical terms.  The girls simply don’t know that they should be struggling with these terms :).  They have learnt the different words for a right angle including book corner and square corner, as well as the harder orthogonal lines and perpendicular lines.  I love that it is the stories within the text which makes these words and concepts stick so well.  We did lots of work on right angles including some printables I found online.  We made good use of the handy dandy measuring head to check for right angles.   The girls also worked at some note book pages:

One of the questions Butterflies asked was to draw a picture of Fred after he’d had a crew cut which left his hair perpendicular to his scalp created orthogonal lines:

Oh the fun!

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Fractions

I taught the girls fractions using a handydandy fraction set I made myself.  I simply drew around a plate on six different coloured sheets of card, leaving one whole, cutting the others into equal sized parts of two, three, four, six, eight and sixteen.  We played a lot with these.  A9 knew all her fractions but this was fairly new to B6, especially the smaller fractions:

I taught them all about equivalent fractions, writing fractions and making fractions:

after which I let them play:

A few days later I checked their understanding using peg boards and elastic bands.  I asked them to split the shapes into specific fractions.  B6 was struggling to understand what I was asking of her, so I had A9 explain, which is so helpful to me for gaging her understanding:

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Cardinal Numbers

Every set has a cardinal number associated with it.  The set with a dozen eggs/ months/ numbers has a cardinal number of 12.  I worked a little with the girls on their understanding of cardinal numbers, using the fractions of the set {dozen}.

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Ordinal Numbers

With ordinal numbers I take every opportunity to drum them in.  When we play a game we talk about who came first, second and third etc  Nothing very exciting, but revising the term whenever I can.

Life of Fred: Butterflies – Shapes


Life of Fred: Butterflies – Maths Games

Our maths games are increasing in number seemingly every week.  This is mostly due to the plethora of charity shops nearby which seem to house a lot of educational products.  The girls love board games, Me, not so much.  But this is a fabulous and painless way to practice maths.  So I gave myself a swift kick up the backside and made myself sit down and play with the girls.

These are the games we are playing alongside butterflies:

  1. Wedgits: A game which helps improve a child’s understanding of geometry and how shapes fit together (often very challenging even for the adults!):
  2. Arithmanix:  This was a simple game, with simple easy to understand rules.  Oh, and one game was over quicker than it took for me to blink.  This is my kind of game!  Great for practicing all the functions, I removed the multiplication and division cards:
  3. Tell the Time:  Another fun and easy game, which allowed B6 lots of telling the time practice.  And the more we played the better she became:
  4. Totally Tut:  Another operations game which is perfect in terms of timing.  We are currently studying the Ancient Egyptians!                                                                                                                                                  
  5. Puzzle Sums:  This was THE game to play during Apples.  The girls didn’t play with it quite so much with Butterflies.  It is a one man game so I am not required in any capacity!  yay!  My favouritist game 🙂
  6. Loose Change:  A Game from one of my favourite companies (The Green Board Game Company).  This is simple and whilst not wildly fascinating, it did its job.
  7. Monopoly: A well-known game of buying and selling properties:
  8. Pop to the Shops:  Another game from educational company, Orchard Toys, this teaches coin usage and buying only what you have the money to buy:Another hugely successful term of Life of Fred Maths.  We will be moving onto the third book called Cats.


  1. This post was perfectly timed, thank you! I’m currently working on building my tutoring business and whilst I use LoF for maths, I’ve not had a student at this level (they’ve all been older so a bit further on). It’s so useful to have an idea of resources I can use if I start a younger student or go back to basics with someone.

  2. Wow! So much math goodness in this post! Your girls are really going to have a firm grounding in math concepts!

  3. I have 4 of these books sitting in a basket awaiting our attention. You’ve nudged me to pull out book 1! Thank you for such a detailed post and how you incorporate the lessons in meaningful ways.

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