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
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.
- 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:
- India Past and Present – website
- Ancient India – website for older students
- Lesson plan for 3rd graders
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:
This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.