Let them eat cake!

Posted on July 18, 2015


Getting ready to lead my Saturday ride, one of my biking buddies says “E and I are probably going to break off ahead and go faster, okay?”   I’m fine with that.  Then she says, “What do you guys usually average, about 14?”

I’d love to know what my face did.   I said “Try 11?   On a good day,” and smiled.

IT’s not the first time I”ve encountered this.   Faster riders simply cannot imagine people going out and riding 20 miles at 10 miles per hour.   The idea that we’re chatting the whole way, we’re riding “slow” bikes and many of us ride once or twice a week and that this all adds up to that … it’s just not in their ken.

Two riders even turned around because 12 miles was what their bodies deemed appropriate (we’re also under a heat advisory).   So, at the halfway point… all but one decided to do the 5-mile-bonus route.

The two of us headed back and he inquired about my job.  He said he’d picked up a basic math book and sad he’d seen this stuff about Pythagoras and … gee. how on earth did people think of that stuff?   I told him about the religious belief that everything could be figured out in integers and how Pythagoras’ ideas about the square root of two had not been well received… and how there was no fraction that could make an irrational number — that you could get close, and from there if that was too high, you could find something that was too low that was closer and find the middle, but you’d never actually get *exactly* there. This number times that number would never be exactly two.

I talked a little about what I’m trying to do — teach people math, with understanding… people who aren’t really sure math is something that they *can* understand (because only certain people can do that, you know).     He totally gets it.   I talked about learning that a 3-legged stool was more stable than a four-legged stool and he said, “why??”   and I asked what would happen if you shortened one leg… and when he imagined the leg a*lot* shorter w/ four legs, he understood,but it was news.

I got to use my biking buddy as an analogy in explaining to him my struggles to get traction behind what I’m trying to do.   The same way that she simply assumed that we rode 14 mph… school folks simply can’t fathom how little math a whole mess of people actually are comfortable working with.   And just giving ’em the harder stuff works about as well as sticking my people in a paceline and saying “I know you can do it!”

So yes, I challenge the “we have to give them hard stuff!”   unless it’s done with serious consideration and constant evaluation.   If your idea of “hard stuff” is going 17 mph because of course even the easiest level is already going 14… you mean well but you’re not going to serve the 11 mph group; you’ll probably find some way to dismiss them.

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