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Mathematics

How mathematics can help you divide anything up fairly

Whether you are sharing a cake or a coastline, maths can help make sure everyone is happy with their cut, says Katie Steckles

By Katie Steckles

3 July 2024

People hands taking slices of chocolate pie, above view on a green background. Unequal sharing the cake, concept for financial pie chart

Say-Cheese/Getty Images

One big challenge in life is dividing things fairly. From sharing a tasty snack to allocating resources between nations, having a strategy to divvy things up equitably will make everyone a little happier.

But it gets complicated when the thing you are dividing isn’t an indistinguishable substance: maybe the cake you are sharing has a cherry on top, and the piece with the cherry (or the area of coastline with good fish stocks) is more desirable. Luckily, maths 鈥 specifically game theory, which deals with strategy and decision-making when people interact 鈥 has some ideas.

When splitting between two parties, you might…

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