Life of Fred Maths as our Core Text

Living maths has always appealed to me, but I have never been confident enough to do it long term.  I did, however, take Lillie off the traditional maths she was obviously struggling with (and very behind in) and we did living maths for a year together, starting from the very beginning.  I was completely surprised when, not only did she catch up but she also surpassed the level she ‘should’ have been at. What if I could have it both ways – use a specific curriculum so I could be confident of learning the right stuff, but also spend most of our maths time playing.  We already owned Life of Fred maths and I wondered if maybe the Life of Fred books could be my core but that I use them alongside lots of hands on, practical, ‘living’ maths, with the goal of making maths fun but most of all relevant.

What is Life of Fred Maths?

Life of Fred Maths

Life of Fred is a literature based curriculum, which on the surface, looks like it doesn’t have enough actual maths in it to be a full and complete scheme of learning.  The author claims it has more maths than the average maths curriculum, and when you look a bit deeper you realise this is true.  What it doesn’t have is lots and lots of problems to solve, certainly in the younger years.  But isn’t that what children dislike about traditional methods of teaching maths?  Mine certainly do.

I took Apples, the first book in the series, and wrote down everything it covered.  Based on a lesson a day the book would be completed easily within a month, and seemed to have far less than the girls’ normal maths, Conquer Maths.  However, I could see the potential for using the maths contained in Apples and playing with it so that the girls could learn principals to apply universally.

Journaling alongside Life of Fred Maths

This will constitute the girls’ main learning.  My goal is to work with the two girls together, helping B6 when she needs it.  Her concentration is so much better than A8’s that I do feel that working together will work fairly well.

Life of Fred Maths

Each week I will look over the next five lessons in the current Life of Fred book and jot down what I want them to learn and ideas for hands on activities and journaling activities.  I will be using the book below for ideas for mini books and the such, which the girls will use to key word their learning:

Their journals will contain their journal pages, a folder with any cardboard resources I find (such as a days of the week book mark to help B6 learn to spell the days of the week, or any printable maths games), the answers to the Life of Fred questions and a sheet containing the Problem of the Week (see below)


Life of Fred Maths Center

I will be transforming the area where my office is situated into a maths center.  So far I have brought in the girls’ table and chairs, cleared the wall space and the white board as well as emptying the shelving unit for all our maths supplies:

Life of Fred Maths
Life of Fred Maths

Problem of the Week

I will be setting one harder, multiple stage problem each week, to see if they can apply what they are learning in a broader context.  I will want to see their working out and am happy for them to use any method to work out the answer, the more creative the better!

The problem of the week will be based on their cultural studies, so they will be using what they are learning across the board of their homeschool.

At the end of each week there will be a reward for them both.  If only one is able to work it out, she has to explain to her sister how she did it, until they are both able to understand and receive the reward.  Either they both receive it or neither receive it.  I am hoping this will encourage them to work together as a team, and share their knowledge and understanding together.

The problem will be written up on our white board and a space left for the girls to play around with ideas:

Life of Fred Maths


Living Maths Situations

As well as taking the opportunities for number work in real life situations, I will also be setting up situations which will mirror life but have controllable variables, such as the shop in which everything cost 1p, 2p, 3p, 4p, 5p, 6p and 7p (all the addends of 7):

Life of Fred Maths

As you can see, I roped the older ones into helping 🙂  The littles then took it in turn to be the shop keeper or shopper, had great fun working out how much their stuff cost and working out change.  For each round the shopper was given 7p to spend, although they didn’t have to spend it all….

The Littles as shoppers:

Paying for their goods:

A as cashier:

B as cashier:

Working out change:

This was a great way for them to fully internalise the number bonds of 7 (Life of Fred Apple book covers this set of bonds).

I have other ideas as well but I haven’t fully developed them yet, but will share if successful.

So far (we have only been at it a week) the girls have ADORED this way of doing maths and keep asking for just one more lesson!  The proof of the pudding will, of course, be how enthusiastic they are a few months in.  I will be posting about each Life of Fred book as I complete it with the girls.

Other Living Maths posts


  1. Wonderful! I especially love your emphasis on teamwork. If I had my time again I’d have introduced my two to Beast Academy when they were younger. They both now absolutely love The Art of Problem Solving and BA is AOPS’s primary age curriculum. Having said that, we had great fun doing living maths supplemented by Ed Zaccaro and a bit of Life of Fred. 🙂 Looking forward to reading more of your living maths posts.

  2. Three quick comments: First, I LOVE that they have to work together as a team to claim the reward!

    Second, for math journaling you might like some of the free downloadable games at ….you can search by topic, by grade, or a few other ways.

    Third, Jimmie Lanley did a wonderful article years ago on what is now HubPages with links to all sorts of free math journal ideas and printables, which you might find useful.

    Happy Friday, Claire and family 🙂

  3. Hi claire! I love what you are doing with LOF. My daughter just turned 5. What do u recommend we do until she is of age for apples? I believe apples is 1st grade.

    1. I think I would just play lots of maths games with her (Orchard toys have a lot) and cooking, counting, money….lots of living maths. I can see that my two are learning waaaay more now than they ever were when we used a traditional maths curriculum. Oh, and there are lots and lots of picture books which are maths based, which might be fun to read 🙂

      1. Thank you so much. Thats actually what I was thinking as well. I have quite a few of the picture books for math. I grab them whenever I see them at a thrift store. Many blessings.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.