How to Weigh an Elephant
Wen Hsu
age group: 
7+ yrs
Number of pages: 
great women of India problem solving mathematics elephants
picture book, fiction


Most kids are put off by physics, as it is perceived to be dry and boring subject. Is there any way for teachers and parents to make children excited about it?
YES! There is. Just start teaching by reading an appropriate story at the start of the lesson. Are there such books? Yes again.

This book introduces the theory of displacement of liquids - the Eureka principle.
A king wants to weigh his favourite elephant, but none of his courtiers could figure out a device that was strong enough or big enough to hold the gigantic animal.  Finally, a little girl, Lilavati, comes up with a simple yet, brilliant solution. She gets the elephant on to a boat and by marking the level to which the boat sinks in the water, and then filling the boat upto the same level with rocks and weighing them, she successfully figures out the exact weight of the elephant.

The story successfully expounds two issues. One is the scientific principle and the other, it encourages children to think out of the box. Just like Lilavati, who was one of the earliest mathematicians of India! As a bonus are the notes on other famous women scientists. Women who not only dared to dream big but also became trailblazers of their times.

Everything about this book is just right. The layout, the font size, the appropriate use of language and of course the illustrations. In the style of a collage, with minimal fuss, we see kings on palanquins, portly wazirs and of course, the roly-poly elephant.

All the ingredients to make for a perfect picture book for kids!

Reviewed by Shamim Padamsee


My favorite character in the book “ How to weigh an elephant “by Geeta Dharmarajun is “Lilavati”.

The story is about difficult tasks given by the king to his disciples to find out the weight of the weight of the elephant. Various people across the kingdom tried to find out the weight of the elephant but all their attempts failed. Even intelligent scientists failed in the task. One scientist suggests the name of her daughter “ Lilavati”. Lilavati used her wits intelligence and and patience and then found out the weight of the elephant. I liked the way she simplified the complex problem and bought its solution.

What Lilavati teaches us in the story is that in life we face lot of complex problems but if we simplify these problems there is a solution to every problem.

Himani Vora
Arya Vidya Mandir

Bandra (E)