One Grain of Rice

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One Grain of Rice

Created By: NCTM Illuminations


In this lesson, students take on the role of a villager in a third-world country trying to feed her village. While listening to you read aloud the book One Grain of Rice by Demi, students work collaboratively to come up with a bargaining plan to trick the raja into feeding the village using algebra, exponential growth, and estimation.

By the end of this lesson, students will: * Create a general algebraic formula using variables. * Understand how to express mathematical thinking in a concise written or verbal manner. * Use estimation skills to make predictions.

Time Required: 1 period

One Grain of Rice by Demi — available from and elswhere One Grain of Rice Activity Sheet Student Journals Calculators

Skills/Knowledge Gained by Learners:
1. Represent, analyze, and generalize a variety of patterns with tables, graphs, words, and, when possible, symbolic rules. 2. Model and solve contextualized problems using various representations, such as graphs, tables, and equations.

Arrange the students into small groups (3 or 4 students per group usually works best) prior to beginning the lesson. Begin the lesson by introducing the book. Ask students to predict what the book might be about based on the title, front cover, and back cover. Explain to the class that this book is about a village in India that did not have enough food to support its population because of famine and because the raja kept all of the rice for himself. Tell the students to listen carefully to the scenario presented in the book, as they will be creating their own plan to feed the village. Read One Grain of Rice aloud to the end of page 5, stopping immediately after, "The people had no rice to give to the raja, and they had no rice to eat." (This is where you could tell them your own story if you do not have access to the book. For now, stop before you reveal the main character's plan.)

Closure: (How to draw the project to a close)
It is important that students record the algebraic equation that their group devised and write in words why the equation does or does not work. If their equation does not work, they should create a new equation and explain why the new equation is correct. Be sure to encourage thorough answers to Question 7 on the activity sheet.

1. While students are involved in small-group work, circulate among the groups, listening to their conversations and judging participation and accuracy among the members. Give students a minimal amount of help on their algebraic equation. Allow them to struggle and generate an equation on their own. Assess the students on their participation in class, their completed activity sheet, and their journal entries. 2. Ask students to write an entry in their journal explaining why Rani's plan was so effective. Emphasize that they should use a mathematical explanation to justify their response. Additionally, ask them to create a plan that would be as effective as Rani's.


  • Program Types
    • Lesson Plans
  • Intended Audience
    • Teachers
  • Target Level
    • Middle School
  • Subject
    • Mathematics
    • Algebra


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