Impasse?

A dying father tells his 3 sons that he wants each of them to inherit his prized horses. The father says to the first son “You are to receive one half of my horses.” To the second son he says “You are to receive one third of my horses.” And to the last son he says “You are to receive one ninth of my horses.”

When the father dies, there are 17 horses.

Without killing any horses, how can each son receive his designated share of 1/2, 1/3, 1/9?



(See below for a solution.)

 





The extra horse solution…

Let’s assume I have a horse and I meet the 3 sons to discuss their probelm of dividing the 17 horses.

If I give the sons my horse, they will now have have 18 horses. And with 18 horses, each son can receive their allocated share of the horses. The first son will receive his half share: 9 horses. The second son will receive his third share: 6 horses. And the last son will receive his ninth share: 2 horses.

Interestingly, 9 + 6 + 2 = 17 horses. So, now I can also have my horse back!

The unexpected extra horse solution captures my goal as a mediator. I want to help disputing parties create settlement solutions that will work for them.


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