Exponential Growth, Explained Via Rice on A Chessboard

Arjan van der Meij contacted me recently to show off this interesting project. Arjan is a teacher and thought that his students might find the concept of exponential growth to be an interesting thing to visualize. There’s an old fable where a trickster gets incredible amounts of food by asking for a chess board of rice, where each square doubles the amount of rice, thereby exponentially growing till he has a vast amount of food. Arjan found this example to be great and set out to produce this visually.

As you could probably predict, he was unable to stack grains of rice on the squares for very long before it became cumbersome and possibly dangerous, so he started adding scaled down items to show the height a tube of rice would have to be. Some of those examples are things like the Burj Kalifa and the Sun. Each square is engraved with the amount of grains of rice that would have to fit on it.

This is such a fun way of demonstrating the rapid expanse of exponential growth. Great job Arjan, hope the students like it!


I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. You can find me on twitter at @calebkraft

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