Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks. ~ Dr. Seuss

The Rajah’s Rice: A Mathematical Folktale from India

line The Rajah’s Rice: A Mathematical Folktale from India
by David Barry (Author), Donna Perrone (Illustrator)

Surprising Mathematics!

Chandra lives in an Indian village and tends to the Rajah’s elephants. She is the “Elephant Bather”. She washes them, cleans their toenails and ¬†polishes their tusks. She loves the elephants. But Chandra also loves Numbers. She sees numbers in many things. She counts the elephant’s toenails as she cleans them. She scrubs their backs one hundred times.

But she has one great sadness. Every year, the Rajah sends his men to collect the vast amount of rice grains that the farmers painstakingly grow in their fields. The rajah takes so much rice that the poor people are hungry. This is the rent the farmers must pay to the king. It makes Chandra angry as she sees her beloved elephants carrying the sack after sack of rice grains to the king’s warehouse.

Rajahs Warehouse

Now one day, the rajah’s elephants fall very sick. No matter what they do, the doctors and vets cannot cure their pain. Finally the Rajah calls on Chandra to help find a solution. Chandra soon finds the root cause as a painful ear-infection. In return the rajah asks “Name your reward”.¬† Now Chandra, instead of asking for the many jewels, glittering gold necklaces and bags of rupees, asks for:

I ask for rice. Please place 2 grains of rice on the 1st square of your chessboard. Then double that amount and place 4 grains in the next square. And so on, doubling each pile of rice until you reach the last square of the chessboard“.

Rajahs Chessboard

At first people ridicule her… but soon enough the people are celebrating their little hero Chandra! Can you guess what happens next!

A wonderful tale of trickery and surprising mathematics. The appeal in this story is the sheer brilliance and surprising result of doubling a small number many times over! And when you pick up the book, don’t forget to read the very last page with a very interesting comparison of how many grains Chandra ends up with !

Find it here: Library, Amazon, Better World Books

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