LONG AGO in China the Emperor received a fine and wondrous gift from a country far away. It was an elephant – the largest and most extraordinary creature anyone in the land had ever seen.
"I wonder how much the creature weighs," said the Emperor, and he sent for his royal servant.
"Your Majesty," the servant replied, trembling, "I know not how this fine creature could be weighed. Surely we have no scales large enough to weigh such an enormous beast.
"Father, I know how you can weigh the elephant," said the Emperor’s eight-year old son.
Everyone at the royal court turned in amazement. How could such a young person figure out a solution？
This was the clever boy’s idea:
He sent a boat onto the ocean with the elephant on board. He told the sailors to mark the waterline on the boat, that is, the place where the edge of the boat hit the water. Then the boat was brought ashore and the elephant taken off. Next, he had crates of bricks put on board the ship, one at a time, until the boat sank enough for the line marked on the side to meet the water. Last, he brought the boat ashore, took off the crates of bricks, and had them weighed one by one!