Once upon a time there lived a rich Arab. Then he died. In his will he left 17 camels to his three sons to be divided among them in the following proportion.
The Eldest son was to have 1/2 of the camels
The Second son was to have 1/3rd of the camels
The Youngest son was to have 1/9th of the camels

At his death the sons started to divide the camels, and a great argument took place as each one naturally wished his full number of camels which they agreed was for the
Eldest 1/2 of 17 = 81/2 camels.
Second 1/3 of 17 = 52/3rds camels.
Youngest 1/9 of 17 = 18/9ths camels.
They were wrath. The only way they could see of squaring it, was to cut some of the camels up.

But lo, it came to pass as they were sharpening their knives that another rich Arab merchant came from across the desert with a large following of baggage camels, and on hearing the cause of dispute said he could settle it in such a way, that each would have more than his share, and no camels would be cut up and this was how the wise man from the East proceeded.

To the 17 camels to be divided he added one of his own baggage camels which all agreed made 18 camels now to be divided, although one of the brothers thought the additional camel such a poor specimen as to be only worth half a camel. Ignoring this, the wise man from the east decreed that the three brothers should receive that proportion of the camels intended by their father as follows;
The Eldest son his 1/2 of 18 = 9 camels.
The Second son his 1/3 of 18 = 6 camels.
The Youngest son 1/9 of 18 = 2 camels.

Total camels distributed = 17.

He then took his own camel back again and the dispute being now satisfactorily settled, he departed on his way, and the three sons marvelled at his wisdom. And they aren't the only ones!

© 2018 Duncan Linklater