Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dividing Camels

A man in Arabia died, leaving his estate—consisting of 17 camels— to his three sons. Before passing, he told them that it was his will that the eldest receive 1/2 of the camels, the second eldest to receive 1/3rd of the camels, and the youngest to receive 1/9th of the camels.

Upon convening to divide their inheritance between them, the three sons were perplexed with the dying words of their father; 17 camels are not divisible by 2, nor by 3, nor by 9. They wished to honor their father's last wish, but it appeared that their father had made a mistake.

When it seemed that no one could be allotted their rightful inheritance, they brought their problem before an old woman whom they all trusted to make a fair judgement of how they should proceed. However, she was also unable to find a fair way to divide the 17 camels amongst them. This old woman had a good heart, and seeing that she could not help them otherwise, she insisted that they allow her to give them her own camel.

The brothers accepted reluctantly, and again began to discuss their plight. Now, with one more camel to divide they sat down to do the math once again.

One half of the 18 camels would go to the eldest son. He took 9 camels.
One third of the 18 camels would go to the second eldest son. He took 6 camels.
One ninth of the 18 camels would go to the youngest son. He took 2 camels.

The remaining camel? They returned it to the old woman.

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