The children are mesmerized by this week's read-aloud selection: Demi's One Grain of Rice. This "mathematical folktale" features a rather greedy raja (who prefers to think of himself as wise) who demands the majority of the rice harvest from the populace of rice farmers in his kingdom. Famine and poor conditions bring about hunger for the majority, but the raja refuses to part with what he has collected. An observant and clever young girl named Rani notices rice spilling from baskets en route to the palace from the royal storehouses and devises an ingenious plan. Rani gathers the rice in her skirt, offers it to the raja, and declines his offer of a reward. He insists until she tells him she will accept one grain of rice. The listeners in the library - and the raja - are astounded that she would ask for something so small. Rani then clarifies. She wants one grain of rice the first day, double that amount the second day, double that day's amount the third day, and so on until the span of 30 days has been reached. When the grains of rice reaches into the thousands, hundred thousands, and millions, the raja - and the children - realize Rani has been quite clever in her request.
Demi cleverly added a five by six table on the last page to show how the number of grains doubles each of the 30 days. The children in all grades loved thinking math, doubling the grains in their minds. Most made it to Day 15 without having to hesitate long (sometimes amazing their teacher and me). I am certain there will be several of those tables made at home tonight to show parents just how quickly the doubling works.