Fact or Fable


Here's a story told by the Greek Storyteller Aesop (EE-sop) more than 2,600 years ago. It's called "The Crow and the Pitcher."

Once a thirsty crow found a pitcher of water. But the water level was too low for him to take a sip. So the crow collected a pile of tiny pebbles. He dropped then into the pitcher one by one until the water rose high enough for him to drink. What's the moral of the story? Little by little does the job.

Just how much can pebbles make the water level in a container rise? Try this activity and see!


* A ruler
* A clear container filled with 2 inches of water
* A bag of pebbles or marbles (If you don't have pebbles or marbles, use checkers, whole nuts, buttons, or bottle caps instead.)

Does Aesop's tale "hold water"? Find out!

1a. Look at your "pebbles." How many do you think you would have to drop in the container to raise the water level 1/4 inch?

b. Now try it. How many did it take?

2a. Say you added that many pebbles to the container again. Do you think the water level would rise another 1/4 inch?

b. Try it! What happens?

3. At this rate, about how many more pebbles would it take for the water to reach the top of the container?

4. Try adding that many pebbles. What happens?

5. Say you used a different-shaped container. Would your results be the same? Why or why not? Answer on a separate page.

DON'T STOP NOW! The animals in Aesop's fables look for creative ways to solve their problems. Think of another way the crow could have reached the water. Write a story about it! Then drop by a local library to fond more fables by Aesop.

Adapted from an article in Dynamath, February,1994.

Objective: In the spirit of Aesop's "The Crow and the Pitcher," students create a model to measure the effects of adding pebbles to a pitcher of water.

Strategy: It helps to use a pitcher with straight sides. If this isn't feasible, students can create one by cutting off the top part of an empty 2-liter plastic soda bottle. Use a permanent marker to mark the side of the bottle in 1/4-inch increments. After reading the story, take a class vote on whether the crow had a good idea. Vote again after the activity. Ask the students why their opinions may have changed from the first vote.

Resource: "A Drink for Crow," and other folktales that include a mystery to solve, are found in "Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the world," told by George Shannon. (Greenwillow Books, 1350 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 100019; 1985; ISBN 0-688-04303-8; $12.94.)


Answers will vary, depending on the shapes of your students' pitchers. In general, the smaller the base, the higher the water will rise. At some point, though, the water will stop rising and the marbles will stack up higher than the water line.

Don't Stop Now! Answers will vary. We think the crow could have tried to break the pitcher, knock it over and spill the water, or use a straw.

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