Education is being driven by an analytic idea of "basicness" inherited from a limited, literal-minded, and out-dated version of the empirical sciences. The student suddenly grabbed the thumb of David Jardine's "letters" hand and bent it down. The children were filling in a photocopied worksheet, purportedly dealing with questions of addition and subtraction. There is a long-standing allure to the idea of "back to the basics" in educational theory and practice. It drives not only reactionary school reform movements and critiques or defenses of "liberal" or "progressivist" education. Assessing the quality and worthwhileness of the brief conversation and the mathematical and pedagogical potentials it might have held is a different matter. Having learned to live with trying to treat children's questions as full of mathematical portend, one gradually become "experienced" at hearing the nuance and difference that each new situation brings.