Teaching Math with Life of Fred

By Jeff Gorman

When I learned that I would be teaching math this summer to kids in Grades 3-5, I knew it was time to call on our friend Fred.

“Life of Fred” is a series of math books written by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph.D.  The books tell the story of Fred, a 5-year-old math genius who is a college professor in Kansas.

Fred sees math problems everywhere he looks, and the students enjoy his life story while stopping from time to time to work on math problems.

The first three books are called “Apples,” “Butterflies” and “Cats.” Figuring those were for Grades K-2, I read “Dogs” to my third-graders, “Edgewood” to my fourth-graders and “Farming” to my fifth-graders.

I read them two chapters a day, stopping the story when it was time to do a math problem on the board. I squeezed in an extra chapter at the end of Week 2 to finish the book.

With one week left, I started each class on the next book, with the fifth-graders moving on to “Goldfish.” So I read about 1½ “Life of Fred” books to each of my classes.

I also incorporated  Fred’s image into the class. I drew him on the board each day with some math problems for students to work on when they entered class. I called it “Fred’s Early Bird Challenge.”

I was going to call the final day’s test “Fred and Kingie’s Super Early Bird Challenge,” adding a drawing of Fred’s doll, Kingie.

However, one of my kids asked, “Does that mean we have to show up super early?”

So I changed it to “Fred and Kingie’s Early Bird Super Challenge.”

I also tried to keep the students entertained by stopping to show them Kingie’s beautiful oil paintings and asking them if they could find the hidden mouse on Fred’s bus trip to Edgewood.

I also gave Fred a squeaky Mickey Mouse voice, Kingie a snobby butler voice and Alexander an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice because he’s so big and strong.

In the future, I would give my students more challenging Fred books, because Schmidt did not write the books to be read once a year. Some of the addition and multiplication facts were too easy for my students, so I had to go online to find them more challenging problems.

But still, the kids learned a lot from Fred and were very entertained. When I asked on the test what was their favorite part of class, many of them said “Life of Fred.”

My Second Week With Three Broken Jaw Bones

On June 19th, I fell out of my wheelchair and broke my jaw bone in 3 places.  I recounted the first week here and then my husband wrote from his perspective.

dealing-with-broken-jaw-boneYes, this is actually me smiling!  Isn’t it just inviting?

I look like I’m in a hospital gown, but that’s actually a loose fitting shirt for me to easily go over my chin.

I’m writing this so that hopefully someone out there might get some inspiration.  I googled “how long to recover from breaking one’s jaw bone” and really didn’t find much content on this vast web.

Day 8 – Talking. Talking. Talking.

This is the first that I’ve been out of the house since coming home from the hospital.  I was nervous, scared and excited!  When Dr. Papas saw me at the hospital he had explained why he didn’t think I needed surgery, but was still unsure and he wanted to give me a quick look over and determine if I’ll need surgery or X-rays.

The day was beautiful!  The sun decided to come out and brighten my outing.  It was a bit chilled in the high 60’s for Ohio.

We arrived and he was just the nicest thing.  He didn’t even have a nurse bring us back in.  After a half hour wait he just popped out and looked at me, we shot the breeze a bit about my father-in-law and was so patient in answering my questions.

He was still inconclusive as to if I need surgery or not.  He wanted us to make an appointment for Monday in a town that’s about 20 minutes away.

As I talked, I started drooling out of the left corner of my mouth where I can’t open as much.  Ok new phenomenon!

We left for home.  The ride was so beautiful, I didn’t want to go home quite yet.  Normally, I’d express that to my husband.  However, I was so scared of getting into a car accident.  That fear seems so out of place though because the jaw bones didn’t break due to a car accident!  Besides, we had a Skype call for the camp I was suppose to teach with my husband and we needed to get home for that.

Very shortly after the Skype meeting, my sub came over and I really needed to go over with her the things I’ve done so that she can start on Monday.

Then the dreaded aloneness happened.  My daughter was picked up to go to her favorite camp.  Kicking Bear a free packed 24 hours of archery and rifle lessons.  Then shortly after that, my husband went off to announce for the Lake County Captains (class A Affiliate of Cleveland Indians)

About 2 hours after he had a left a friend called on the phone and we chatted it up a bit.  I really didn’t want to answer the phone because I’ve been talking more today then the previous week combined!  However, this has been a sweet friend and huge helping during this ordeal.  Taking my daughter to her activities, bringing me soup, sitting with me and visiting me in the hospital.  I really did want to talk to her so I picked up the phone.

Then another friend had stopped by.  It was preplanned that she was going to keep me company for a few hours while my husband was away at work.  She brought over the most delicious potato soup!  I really hadn’t eaten much, but man did this hit the spot.

After speaking with her for awhile, my broken jaw bones had had enough!  My front teeth started separating and I couldn’t find a comfortable way to put my head or jaw to keep them together.  So we just had our soup and watched a movie.

Day 9 It’s Officially Cracked

The night was miserable.  I couldn’t find a comfortable way to sleep.  It’s dark.  My daughter is camping in the rain.  I so hope they are having fun.  My husband is home working away at the camp he’s about to start on Monday; teaching 3rd, 4th and 5th grade math.

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