Read Aloud time is my favorite time of day with my students. So, I decided to make a few posts describing some of my favorites. A great story that incorporates literacy and math is The King’s Chessboard by David Birch. This story is about a wise man who wants no payment for a service he has performed for the king. The king, however, insists on paying him, so the wise man asks the king to give him one grain of rice, and then to double that each day for 64 days. It’s a great story, because it introduces students to the power of doubling, and allows them to see just how quickly numbers can become very large.
When I read this story to my students, I remind them that economies did not always run with currency, and in the past a commodity such as rice could be used as payment for goods. I then ask them to think of the grain of rice in the same way they would think of a penny. Of course, just like the king in the story they do not think that the wise man has asked for very much money. Once I get into the story, however, my students begin to realize just how quickly that penny doubled becomes more than even the king can afford to pay.
This is a great story because it incorporates math, and a bit of history into literacy. I also enjoy it because it teaches students about the importance of asking questions. In the story, the king refuses to ask how much rice it will take to fulfill the wise man’s request. The king is afraid of appearing stupid. I use this as an opportunity to teach my students that it is by not asking questions, that people end up in awkward situations. I highly recommend this book. Enjoy!