How is it possible?

Ali Baba had four sons, to whom he bequeathed his 39 camels, with the proviso that the legacy be divided in the following way :

The oldest son was to receive one half the property, the next a quarter, the third an eighth and the youngest one tenth. The four brothers were at a loss as how to divide the inheritance among themselves without cutting up a camel, until a stranger appeared upon the scene.
Dismounting from his camel, he asked if he might help, for he knew just what to do. The brothers gratefully accepted his offer.

Adding his own camel to Ali Baba's 39, he divided the 40 as per the will. The oldest son received 20, the next 10, the third 5 and the youngest 4. One camel remained : this was his, which he mounted and rode away.

Scratching their heads in amazement, they started calculating. The oldest thought : is not 20 greater than the half of 39? Someone must have received less than his proper share ! But each brother discovered that he had received more than his due. How is it possible?


They took their percentages from 40 and not from 39, so they got more than their share.

The oldest son got 1/2 of 40 = 20 which is 0.5 more
The second son got 1/4 of 40 = 10 which is 0.25 more
The third son got 1/8 of 40 = 5 which is 0.125 more
The youngest son got 1/10 of 40 = 4 which is 0.1 more

And the stranger got 1/40 of 40 = 1 which is 0.025 more (As he is not supposed to get anything)

All these fractions add to = 0.5 + 0.25 + 0.125 + 0.1 + 0.025 = 1 which stranger took away.

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