Just after finishing an hour long run a few weeks ago, Kristin and I started talking about time. As a non-mathematically inclined runner, I don’t tend to waltz around being too concerned about time and mileage. When I log my exercise, I tend rather to either write 45 minute run if I don’t know the mileage, or 5 mile run if I don’t know for how long I ran. It seems to me that many runners want to know both; in fact, they must know both. That whole Nike+ phenomenon really hammered that point home. And with the host of iPhone apps that do the exact same thing (and more! How can there be more!), well, time is on mind.
However, as a runner I feel as though I am constantly having to mash the base in which time is calculated – base 60 – with the base in which the rest of my life is calculated – base 10. Sure, I convert miles into base 60 chunks when I’m driving (if you’re driving 60 miles an hour you will go one mile per minute, so it will take two hours to drive 120 miles). But still, when I look at my watch and see I’ve run for one hour, my first instinct is to think, “Oh! 100! I went at least 10 miles!” when really, I only went at least six (I figure at my very slowest I am running ten minute miles). In order to run at least ten miles, I’d have to run for an hour and forty minutes (or, 100 minutes, not 1 hour).
Ugh. I’m tired just trying to organize the tangle in my head about time into tangible words that relay my confusion!
Also confusing about time is the fact that when you learn about telling time in school, you also tend to be learning about counting money. And money is in base 10. So when we discuss a quarter in money, we mean twenty-five cents. But a quarter past an hour is only 15. Oh, and you want to make it really hard? A quart of liquid is something else entirely (thanks Mala and Paul and Ken for that conversation this weekend!)which does not seem to pertain to 15 or 25.
Oh snap, and distance? Forget about it. Feet are 12 inches. So, base 12? At least base 12 fits into base 60, which apparently is why base 60 was chosen – it has several factors and is divisible by the numbers 1-6.
Hmmm. Maybe those iPhone apps do make sense after all, considering just how muddled I am right now about counting time and distance together in any sort of useable fashion.
Did it ever occur to anyone that the issue with teaching our children has little to do with how we teach them, but what we’re trying to stuff into their brains? Sure, kids in other countries are “smarter” per say, but they’re not trying to learn three different base systems for all the real-world things they’ll need to know in their society.
Then again, look how this all worked out for me…