How To Solve A Problem

Often It Requires "Thinking Outside The Box"

An Example

(First Offered By An Unknown Arabic Mathematician Around 1,000 BC)


I first heard this one over 55 years ago in high school. The Nun who taught advanced math shared it with us. It seems to be going around the internet these days. The message is still applicable today.


A man who had three sons passed away. After the man had passed away, his sons opened up the will.

The Father left 17 Camels as an asset for his three sons.

The will of the Father stated that the eldest son should get 1/2 of 17 Camels.

The middle son should be given 1/3rd of 17 Camels.

The youngest son should be given 1/9th of the 17 Camels.

As it is not possible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9 evenly, the sons started to fight with each other.

So, they decided to go to a wise man.

The wise man listened patiently about the Father's will. The wise man, after giving this thought, brought one camel of his own and added it to the 17. That increased the total to 18 camels.

Now, the wise man started to do what the deceased Fatherís will indicated.

Half of 18 = 9. So he gave 9 camels to the eldest son.

1/3rd of 18 = 6. So he gave 6 camels to the middle son.

1/9th of 18 = 2. So he gave 2 camels to the youngest son.

Now add this up:

9 + 6 + 2 = 17

But, there were 18 camels. So, 18 - 17 = 1 left over, which the wise man took back because it was his to begin with.

Lesson To Be Learned:

The attitude toward problem solving is to find the "18th camel". Or, often one should learn to "Think Outside the Box".