Life of Fred: Apples {Living Maths}

Life of Fred: Apples

Yesterday, I showed a friend what my eight and six year old were doing using their Life of Fred: Apples.  I could see the incredulity in her eyes.  ‘Your daughter is only just learning what 3 plus 4 is?’  I could hear her silent thoughts.  And I doubted myself just a little.  But I didn’t stop what I was doing.  No, there was something deep inside me which yelled out that this was the right way to teach my younger girls maths. I just needed to keep on keeping on.

Life of Fred: Apples

As we approach the end of the first of the Life of Fred maths books ‘Apples’ I can honestly say I am so pleased I didn’t give up.  These books are gems and my girls adore maths right now, often asking for more than one lesson per day.  They love the story of Fred, they really enjoy putting together their maths notebooks, and I can see they are learning heaps.  But they are not just learning, they are understanding and applying their maths to every day situations.

It has taken just over two months to complete Apples and, having looked at what each girl would have learnt in their regular maths program, I can say with confidence that we have covered far more.  And because I am the one doing the teaching, I know exactly what they know and more importantly what they understand.  I LOVE this type of teaching.  It may be more work but I am excited about what each day brings.

Life of Fred: Apples – Activities

Any how, here is the enormous amount of learning which has gone on in the last four weeks or so, along with our maths notebooks.

Time {hours}:  

I do this very simply.  I have precut lots of clocks which the girls use one of each lesson, add the time mentioned in Apples and stick it in their note book.  Simple right?


The best thing though has been watching my six year old moving the hands of our learning clock and working out on her own the times displayed on the various clocks around our house, having never shown any interest in time prior to this:

Right at the end of the book, Fred learns how to tell the time in 5 minute increments.  This showed the girls how useful knowing their five times tables was. And, it also helped B6 to understand how a clock works.  

I went through very slowly with her about seconds, minutes and hours.  We had covered this in her computer maths the previous year. But they had figured more on rote learning of o’clock, quarter past and half past.  She had never really understood.  Now she understood much better.  This was revision for A8, so I had her play teacher to give B6 more practice at times.  Once they could both tell the time, Daddy and I would buy them a wrist watch 🙂

Days of the week:  

Again I do this very simply.  Each day we run through the days in order, figure out today’s day and the girls write it down in their note books.  I have a book mark containing all the days to help with spelling, but we don’t really need that anymore:  The girls also made a flap mini book detailing the days of the week and the order in which they come, with their ordinal number

Months of the year:

In the same vein, we go through all the months of the year each day, and the girls write down the date and month next to the day in their note books (again they use the bookmark of the months of the year to help with spelling):


I also made a months of the year flap mini book with ordinal numbers underneath each flap:

Addition sentence {Addend plus Addend equals Sum}:  

Apples focuses on addends of seven.  At first I didn’t understand the importance of focusing on just one set of addition facts but I absolutely see it now.  First I created an addend plus addend equals sum mini book:


The girls quickly learnt that it does not matter what order the addition is done in (2+5=7 just like 5+2=7).  This is called the Identity quality of addition {Order does not matter}.  I made a mini Properties of Addition booklet for the girls to fill in as we go along:


We did lots and lots of addition practice focusing only on the addends of seven.  This led the girls to fully understand the rather arbitrary 2x + 5x = 7x, which was necessary to understand to begin algebra:


And lastly they did some addition colouring in:

Shapes {Circles, Ellipses, Triangle and Square}:  

We did all sorts of activities linked to shapes.  The girls pasted a sheet of shape properties:


We looked for specific items around the house which were certain shapes and made shapes on their elastic band peg boards:

The girls also divided the shapes into sets:

Life of Fred: Apples – Games

Next we stole Lillie to help us play ball and make up different shape configurations whilst we played.  This was a ‘game’ Fred ‘plays’ with the seven bored monkeys he comes up against.  He was the ball.  We used an actual ball rather than a child and had great fun!

Looking for Patterns

Any time I had been remiss and forgotten to plan any activities for the next day, I brought out one of our many maths themed board games.  The girls both had fun making addition and subtraction puzzles.  For A8 this was revision and child’s play but for B5 it was a defining moment, because it was whilst doing the number sentences for 7 (1+6=7, 2+5=7, 3+4=7 etc) that she noticed a pattern.  She then began to naturally group the puzzles into the patterns which made sense to her (2+5=7, 5+2=7, 7-2=5, 7-5=2).  

Obviously these aren’t hard sums, and they were the sums she had been learning.  No, I wasn’t impressed because of the trickiness of them, I was impressed because she had noticed the patterns by herself, and then she applied that knowledge to sums she didn’t know, grouping for example the number bonds of ten together, of nine together….Another time she focus on the addend ten, taking away numbers from it.  Again enjoying the patterns she found.  She played with this for hours and I could see just how vital playing is for a child to make those all important connections.

Number Bingo

Another game Lillie played with them one afternoon was number bingo:

I wasn’t here to watch this but all three girls seemed to have had a good time 🙂

I also created a shop in which everything cost the all the addends of seven:

And the girls even played a naming shapes in Spanish game!

Life of Fred: Apples – Mathematical Exploration {Archimedes}

Each Life of Fred book we use I will be keeping my eyes open for something the girls can dig a bit deeper into, thus enriching their mathematical experience.  For Apples, I chose to explore the theories of Archimedes.  The girls learnt all about this well known mathematician. They also figured out how to measure large quantities of something. And, they learnt why Fred’s boat floated and then sunk (displacement theory).  I will be writing a separate post for this:

We also did a huge maths investigation into polygonal stars using Penrose, the mathematical cat, at our starting point.  Again I will be writing a separate post about this.

Life of Fred: Apples – Checking the Girls Knowledge

I made a pdf of the scope and sequence of Life of Fred: Apples. I used this to check the girls understood everything after we finished the book.  Anything they were a bit rusty on we revised until they knew it without thinking about it.

To double check I had them fill in these free worksheets based on the Apples book.

And that is a whole heap of maths learning over the last few months


  1. I love this! My kids really liked Life of Fred in the beginning, but burned out on it during the fractions book. However, I think I am going to try and pick it up again. You are an amazing teacher!
    Blessings, Dawn

  2. That is one impressive math program you’ve made. I love the notebook idea. I’m going to have to borrow some of these activities!

    1. Thanks Blair. The handy dandy thing about the maths journals is that the girls pick them up and look through them fairly frequently, which they never did with their maths text books or online program.

  3. Wow. I think I need to go back to Apples and do it again using some of your ideas. You really fleshed out the lessons and made it so much fun and hands-on! Thanks for these inspiring posts!

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