The Story Of The King And The Jester
Props Needed
Dove Pan and rice
Long banner designed as scroll
Cloth Checker Board banner
Jester hat and King’s crown (optional but really adds to trick) Fabric paint
Permanent markers

Cloth Checker Board
I found a cloth checker board at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. It measures a little less than 3 feet square and is very visible during an assembly program. I used fabric paint to paint the numbers in the squares as shown on drawing. On the back of the checker board I added a second cloth and painted “The King and the Jester.” Banner was rolled on a dowel stick for easy storage and unrolled at time of performance to introduce story. There is no trick to the banner, it only serves as a visual teaching tool for the children to understand the story.

Scroll banner was a strip of vinyl banner material purchased from a sign shop. Purchasing the material only and using permanent markers and stencils was much cheaper than having the banner made professionally. The estimate to have the banner made 6 feet long was over $80.

King’s crown was made from plastic canvas and covered with bright gold material. Fake gem stones were glued on for decoration. Velcro was added to each end so hat could be sized on the spot. King crowns are available from costume stores but I wanted one that would pack flat and had the addition of velcro for a joke I used in the routine.

Set Up
Fill dove pan load chamber with rice. Place a small handful of rice in bottom of dove pan. Set pan for easy access. Roll checker board banner in preparation for display. Roll scroll in preparation for display. Place king crown and jester hat for easy access.

Patter and Presentation
It’s time for the story of the King and the Jester (Roll out checker board banner with sign , The King and Jester) and I will need someone to help me tell the story. (Choose a small boy to be the king and a friendly girl to be the jester.) Since you’re the Jester you’ll need the jester hat, try it on. (Jester hat to girl.) And as the King you’ll need the King’s crown. (Prepare hat at largest size so it will drop over boy’s head and cover his face.)Let’s try it on. (Drop hat over boy’s face.) It’s a little big. Due to the magic of velcro we can size to fit. (Re- size hat and place on boy.) Much better.

As the King you will have one job. Simply listen as I tell the story and every time I say, “the King,” I want you to say, “I’m the King!” Say it with strength and power because you’re the king of a large country. Let’s practice. The King! (Children will often blow you away with their ability to act on the spot. Teachers love these moments.)

As the jester your job is to be silly. So each time I say, “the Jester,” I want you to say, “Ta Dah!” (Pronounce with a silly sound in your voice.) Let’s practice. That’s great! I think we’re ready for the story of the King (I’m the King.) and the Jester (Ta Dah!)

Once upon a time, a long time ago in the land of India there lived a powerful King. (I’m the King.) He had many servants and many wise men but only one Jester. (Ta Dah!) She loved to play games. She played games all the time. She even invented the game of chess and gave it to the King. (I’m the King.) He loved to play chess, he played it all the time. He loved it so much he wanted to reward the Jester. (Ta Dah!) He said, “I will grant you one wish. You can have anything in my kingdom, what will it be?”

Now the Jester, (Ta Dah!) although she seemed quite silly, was actually very smart. She understood the power of math. She wisely said, “All I want are a few grains of rice. Give me enough grains to cover the squares of my chessboard in this way. Give me one grain on the first square, then double it to two grains on the next, and then four, and so on until all 64 squares are covered in this way.” (Show checkerboard banner with numbers on squares.)

So the king (I’m the King.) thought to himself, what a fool! “I’ve offered her any wish in my kingdom and she asks for a few grains of rice. He sent for his servants to bring a bag or rice. (Show handful of rice in dove pan)The King (I’m the King.) expected it wouldn’t take more than a sack full of rice to cover the chessboard. The Jester, (Ta Dah!) understood the power of math. (Cover dove pan with lid briefly then raise lid to reveal rice overflowing. Pour rice back and forth between lid and base as you speak.) She knew that if the number kept doubling on each square it would be more rice than the entire kingdom was worth.

Actually, it was so much rice that I couldn’t bring enough to show you today. I wrote the number down on this long scroll. (Pull out scroll and ask king and jester to help hold the stretched banner.) It takes this much rice! That is so much that it is more rice than has ever been grown in the entire world in the past 2000 years. (Place scroll aside.) It wasn’t long before the King (I’m the King.) No, I’m afraid you are not. Actually, you lost your kingdom because you couldn’t pay the debt. (Remove crown from King and hold over Jester’s head.) The Jester (Ta Dah!) ruled with silliness because she understood the power of math. (Send helpers to seats.)

My Teacher’s Guide contained the following information about the King and Jester Rice Story

The effects are simple but the story is very powerful. Here’s the math: The Jester asks for 1 grain of rice on the first square of the chessboard and then double the amount on each remaining chess square. There are 64 squares. So we have 1, then 2, then 4, then 8, then 16, and so on. Of course what most students do not realize is that all of these numbers must then be added together for the final total. The final total is 18,446,744,073,709,551,615. We pronounce that as 18 million million million. The number is so large it is the projected amount of the yearly wheat production of the entire world (present day) for 2000 years. You’ll notice I used wheat production. The story was found in the book , “Math Puzzles & Games,” by Michael Holt, Barnes & Noble, Inc 1996. page 7. The original story was about wheat. I used rice because it was easier to handle and more recognizable.

Another similar story – If you were offered a salary of one million dollars for one month’s work or a penny for the first day and the amount doubled for the next 29 days which would you choose? The question sounds silly but the best choice is the penny on the first day. In the first few days you only receive pennies but by the end of the month you have earned over ten million. The exact amount is a Final total of 10,737,418.23WOW! That is, the power of math!

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