Activity Industry Sector
Engineering & Design

Opening Activity

Activity Overview / Details

Show the attached video, "A Single Grain of Rice".  It tellsthe fictional story of the invention of the game of chess. In this story, the inventor is granted any request by the Emperor he works for. He asks only for this: a grain of rice on the first square of his chessboard, to be followed the next day by two grains on the next square, then four on the next and so forth doubling the amount each day until the board is filled. The Emperor is glad to grant his request, but soon realizes that there is not enough rice in the entire world to fulfill it!

Ask the students "Which would you rather have, two million dollars right now, or a penny doubled every day for a month? (30 days)" Give them some time to work out the math and then have them compare answers and how they arrived at their solutions. You can find a solution here.

Now point out to them that this is how computers can make large numbers out of simple bits that only have two values. As they create binary numbers by linking bits together, each bit doubles the possible value of the total number. Computers put 8 bits together to make a byte, which has 256 possible values.