Thanks to Agent 6 for sending along this example of solving a problem by the creative use of simple arithmetic. It's called "Farmer's Math", and it's proof positive that the "old math" which we geezers learned in grade school is better than the "new math" they teach today.
A farmer died leaving his 17 horses to his three sons. When they read the will they found the bequest set out as follows:
* My eldest son should get 1/2 (half) of my horses;
* My middle son should be given 1/3rd (one-third) of my horses;
* My youngest son should be given 1/9th (one-ninth) of my horses.
As it's impossible to divide 17 into half or 17 by 3 or 17 by 9, the three sons started to fight with each other. Finally they decided to go to a farmer friend who they considered quite smart, to see if he could work it out for them.
The farmer friend read the will patiently. After giving the problem due thought, he brought one of his own horses over and added it to the 17. That increased the total to 18 horses. Then he divided the horses according to their father's will.
* Half of 18 = 9. So he gave the eldest son 9 horses.
* 1/3rd of 18 = 6. So he gave the middle son 6 horses.
* 1/9th of 18 = 2. So he gave the youngest son 2 horses.
Adding up how many horses the sons now had, it appears that:
* Eldest son has 9.
* Middle son has 6.
* Youngest son has 2.
TOTAL number of horses = 17!
This left one horse over, so the farmer friend took his horse back to his farm. Problem solved!
Moral of the story: The secret to successful negotiation and problem-solving is to find the "18th horse", that is "the common ground". Once a person is able to find the 18th horse, the issue is resolved. At time it is difficult, but to reach a solution, the first step is to believe that there is a solution. If we think that there is no solution, we won't be able to find any! Wouldn't it be a good idea if all our politicians learned to do "farmer math"?!