Roots have long been realized to be useful material for studies of cell division. Despite this long history of use, the behavior of cells in the meristem is often misinterpreted. A common error is to argue that differences in cell length reflect differences in cell division rate. In this article we explain the fallacy behind this argument and show how the analysis of cell length distribution can lead to insight about the root meristem. These observations support a model for the root meristem where cells of various tissues grow at the same relative growth rate and divide at the same frequency, indicating that these growth parameters are built into the cells at a fundamental level. The differences in cell length between various tissues appear to arise at their formation, first at the tissue initials and ultimately in the seed. Length differences among mature cells may be enhanced by differences in the location within the meristem where division ceases. Discovering mechanisms regulating the length of initial cells and the position where cells cease division requires a realistic understanding of how growth constrains the division behavior of dividing cells.