One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

Title: One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale
Author & Illustrator: Demi
Check out the interview at Paper Tigers
Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1997
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 5-10
Themes: Folklore, India, Social Responsibility, Math, Cleverness

Synopsis (from book jacket flap):
Long ago in India, there lived a raja who believed that he was wise and fair. But every year he kept nearly all of the people’s rice for himself. Then when famine came, the raja refused to share the rice, and the people went hungry. Then a village girl named Rani devises a clever plan. She does a good deed for the raja, and in return, the raja lets her choose her reward. Rani asks for just one grain of rice, doubled every day for thirty days. Through the surprising power of doubling, one grain of rice grows into more than one billion grains of rice — and Rani teaches the raja a lesson about what it truly means to be wise and fair.
Math Focus:

  • Comprehensive lesson plan for older elementary aged students, focusing on math. Elements from this lesson plan could be used for younger grades such as the activity chart to keep track of the rice.
  • Additional math focused lesson plan.
  • Mathwire – has other picture book recommendations similar to One Grain of Rice and lesson plans.

Indian Culture Focus:

Why I Like This Book:
This is a multi-layered story that teaches math, introduces Indian culture, and has a great moral story. I especially loved that the village girl outsmarted the raja using her intelligence, and distributed the rice not only to the villagers but to the nearby animals as well. The story can also be used to discuss social responsibility by discussing the raja’s role during the famine.

The first half of the story introduces the  raja and his relationship with the villagers. The reader watches the demise of the raja’s morals as he becomes selfish during the famine. Rani is clever in asking for just 1 grain of rice on the first day, 2 grains on the second day, 4 grains on the third day, and so on. Rani requested she receive double the amount of rice from the day before for 30 days. The second half of the book is about the math. In the beginning the grains of rice can fit in a small pouch, which becomes 1 heavy bag, to later requiring 8 royal deer to carry the rice bags, culminating on the final day with 256 elephants full of rice bags.The endpage contains  a chart showing exactly how much rice Rani received each day.

I normally think today’s kids aren’t interested in folktales, I was wrong. Apparently, my 6-year old had already heard this story in her pre-school and KG classrooms. When she saw it in my tote bag she ran to me with this and another Demi book, The Empty Pot (also really great, a tale of honesty) telling me how she loved both books and couldn’t wait to read them to me. I was pleasantly surprised. I asked my daughter what she liked most and it was the math – seeing the rice go from 1 grain to hundreds of thousands. She especially enjoyed the the fold out flaps needed to depict the 256 elephants on the last day.
Find One Grain of Rice at the following spots:

Kitaab WorldAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 059093998X
ISBN-13: 978-0590939980

This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

No Responses to “One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale”

  1. Barbara

    What a wonderfully comprehensive review! The power of one . . . I read the book at Family Math NIght and the kids and their parents LOVED it. Thanks for all of the terrific resources.

  2. Patricia Tilton

    I love Indian folklore. This is a beautiful book with a very wise girl and an important lesson! Love your resources. Thank you so much for sharing this gem!

    • Darshana

      If you like Chinese folklore, then definitely check out Empty Pot by Demi. Great story and great message. Demi does a lot of folklore books of Asia and the Middle East, I’d recommend checking her out. I know she has several other Indian titles as well.

  3. Beth Stilborn

    What a wonderful sounding book — and how delightful that your daughter already loved it. I think I, math-challenged as I am, would love it as well. Great resources, too. Thanks!

  4. patientdreamer

    This is a beautiful book Darshana. I loved the message it conveyed and certainly made me smile. In my workplace both new and old the majority of my staff are indian from both north and south. I should be as big as a house with the different foods they love to bring for me to try. Only two days ago all the staff, me included were treated to boxes of very sweet orange balls covered in sweet syrup. A gift as one of my staff has just had her fourth baby, the long awaited son. I love learning about other cultures.

    • Darshana

      Yes, it does seem to be a popular title to use in classrooms. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of resources I found on-line for this title.

  5. Krista

    Oh, I really want this book. I’d like to post your review on my fb page. I have a lot of teacher friends that I think will enjoy it.

  6. viviankirkfield

    Oh Darshana…what a charming folktale. This is a book I MUST get for my almost seven-year old twin grandchildren…I know they will love the story…the math concepts…the illustrations! Thank you so very much for sharing this book with us…and I love the resources and activities you listed! I will check out the other book by this author as well. 🙂

  7. Kerry Aradhya

    Thanks for sharing this one, Darshana. I love hearing about picture books related to India. And how nice that your daughter already knew about this book. She sounds like a super smart little girl!

    • Darshana

      Thanks Kerry. You should also check-out “Same, Same But Different”. Multi-cultural book showing how Elliot from America and Kailash from India are similar and different by exchanging picture pen-pal letters.

  8. Kirsten Larson

    What a wonderful book! We’ve been reading a lot of math picture books, but I love that this one introduces children to Indian culture as well. Thanks Darshana!

  9. Julie Grasso

    A wonderful story which is so necessary in our fast food, I want it now generation. I am so delighted that your 6 year old has heard the story at pre-school, a wise and insightful teacher there. I love that it gives an insight into Indian culture. It sounds like a must read. Thanks for linking into the hop, cheers Julie

  10. Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

    What a briliiant story! I have to admit that it’s pretty mind-blowing how quickly 1 grain of rice doubled over and over can be an incredible amount in no time at all. I have a 6 year old son so I’m curious to get this one for him. Thanks for sharing it in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. 🙂

  11. Erica @What Do We Do All Day?

    Somehow I missed commenting on your post as I was making my way through the link-up! I’ve seen this on the shelves and on a few other blogs and know that I should pick it up to read soon. My son is a really big math nerd, so I’m sure he will like the way a message is delivered through numbers! Thanks for sharing (as always!) at The Children’s Bookshelf.

  12. PragmaticMom

    Thank you so much for linking up to Multicultural Children’s Book Day and helping us highlight great diversity books for kids. I love Demi books and this one has such a lovely message plus a little math thrown in! That’s heaven for me!!

    • Darshana

      I love Demi books. She is a wonderful storyteller and beautiful artist. Same here Iove books that can have “critical thinking” skills woven in.


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