A Mathematical Folktale: More Than Just a Bedtime Story

A few years ago, on a much-enjoyed trip down to Portland, Oregon, I visited Powell’s Books. This store used to be known as “the world’s largest bookstore.” I don’t know what happened to that slogan, but with 7 huge stores in Portland — 2 of which are specialty stores, and a large online service, I still believe it!!!

Anyway… whenever I visit Powell’s, I tend to spend the better part of a day getting lost in the children’s book section. It’s massive. It’s impressive. It can even be overwhelming. And it’s this girth that can lead me to books I’ve never heard of before.

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

On this particular trip, I happened upon a very fine book, One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi. The story is of a Raja who believed himself to be wise and fair, but became selfish when a famine came. He refused to share his stores of the village rice. When the Raja offered a village girl a reward for a good deed, she suggested one grain of rice, doubled every day for thirty days. The Raja believed the reward to be modest and agreed to the terms. On the first day, the girl was given one grain of rice. On the second, two grains. The next day, she received four grains of rice. A few days later, she received over a thousand grains. By the end of the 30 days, the girl had received a total of one billion grains of rice — enough for the whole village, and for the Raja too! The last page of the book has a chart to show how many grains the girl received on each day.

Math Learning Fun Through Literature

I love having this book in my collection. I really enjoy the math and moral messages. However, I also savor its fine storytelling, clever female protagonist, educationally-designed layouts, and beautiful artwork. Each page is drawn in the style of traditional Indian art, many touched with gold. And a few that open out into multi-page scenes filled with animals.

By the way, One Grain of Rice, along with other great books, was mentioned in the August DreamBox Learning Parent Newsletter. The article was about children’s literature which encourages mathematical ideas.

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