“Eleven” in “Base Eleven” would be written as “10.”

Eleven in Base Ten, on the other hand, is a palindromic prime. The next such number on the list is “101.”

img_1711When I was in grade school, my first fifth grade math teacher corrected me more than once for my habit of enunciating that number as “one hundred and one.” He was much exercised by that locution’s unacceptability.

“That is ‘one hundred one,’” he instructed, carefully eliding the “and.”

“‘One hundred AND one,’” he informed me, triumphantly, “means ‘one hundred and ONE TENTH!’” And he wrote the number down in “numerals”:

100.1

I was very frustrated. I had not been taught to defy my elders, much less my teachers. But I was vexed, for I knew B.S. when I heard it.

I even knew and understood the grounds for my heterodoxy. I was more than familiar with older English writing and speech. The King James Bible was the most important book in the house I grew up in. And I knew that Abraham’s wife was recorded to have lived up to but not beyond “one hundred and seven and twenty years” of age. I understood that the “and” signified addition, and saying “and seven” did not mean “7/10ths,” but seven ones, and just so “one hundred and one” was not “one hundred and one tenth” but, technically, “one hundred and one ones.”

I was right. My teacher was wrong to have censured my lack of conformity to fashion, at least so dogmatically, so lacking in perspective.

But at age 10 — or should I write “X”? — I lacked the courage, and perhaps the requisite verbal quickness, to challenge him. I knew the truth, but could not express it.

Prior to that day, my main reading interest had focused almost exclusively upon science. There existed, at that time, plenty of kids’ books not merely about geology and astronomy and chemistry and the like, but also about the major scientists who had made the most important discoveries. After this time, my interests shifted. A more human realm, somewhat more philosophical, became my stomping ground — a realm that allowed (encouraged) its subjects to take a wider view of alternative nomenclatures and customs.

Interestingly, that very teacher was pushing “the new math” at that time, and vexing the whole community in the process. He did not teach it well; he was not that novelty’s most reliable advocate. Almost no one in my class, anyway, “got it.” We did not see the point. And somewhere in the back of my head a heresy was developing: what if teachers did not teach the pure unadulterated truth? What if they sometimes pushed B.S.? I knew of one instance of B.S. for sure, and about math of all things — or the logic and semantics of math, anyway.

How much else was wrong, even nonsense?

Mathematics never became my bag, though logic did. Math teachers, on the whole, struck me as not very bright. And as for me, I dulled to the subject.

Leaving me here, at night, tonight, thinking fruitless thoughts about Base Eleven. How would one write out the natural numbers in that somewhat hypothetical “new math-y” system?

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, X, 10. . . .

But, to carry on, 11 (“twelve” in Base Ten, probably to be said something like “onelf” in Base Eleven), 12 (“thirteen” in Base Ten but “twelf,” no?), 13 (“thirtelf”). . . .

It beats counting sheep.

twv

 

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