“One Grain of Rice” is a wonderful story from India, where a clever village girl outwits a powerful Raja. At the beginning of the story we are introduced to the Raja as someone who believed he was “wise and fair, as a Raja should be.” Yet he requires villagers in his province to turn over almost all of their rice for safe storage, leaving them only enough to get by. When a year of drought arrives, the result is famine and hunger. The villagers beg the Raja to release some of the rice from the royal storehouses but he refuses. Even though his people become more and more famished, the Raja decides to have a feast for himself and his court. As a parade of elephants returns from the royal storehouses loaded down with sacks of rice, Rani, a clever village girl, walks behind them, collecting falling rice in her skirt. The royal guards catch her, but when they accuse her of stealing, she tells them she is collecting the rice to return to the Raja. The Raja, striving to be wise and fair, decides to reward her for returning his rice. He tells Rani: “Ask me for anything and you shall have it.” To the Raja’s great surprise, Rani asks for just one grain of rice. When the Raja says that is not enough of a reward she asks that he give her one grain of rice on the first day. Then each day, for the following thirty days, he is to give her double the rice he gave her the day before. The Raja considers this to be a modest request and readily agrees.
Students are working in Math Communities (table groups) to determine the number of grains of rice paid after the first week, and then extending the doubling pattern to determine the amount after the second week.