Stories for smart kids: How to split a cake so everyone gets a fair share

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For recipe – see Brit + Co. Rainbow Cake

 

One day, the teacher brought the most amazing cake into a classroom. She set it down and asked the children to help decide how to split it so it’s fair.

One child suggested that they all get exactly the same amount. But then another intervened to say that it would be better to give more to the bigger kids as they needed more energy. 

“On the contrary!” said another, “the smaller kids should get more so they can grow bigger faster.”

A tiny voice then said: “But it’s my birthday next week, so I should get a bigger part than all the other children”. Another child chimed in saying it was her birthday the week prior, so she should get a larger portion too.

On hearing this, three children whose birthdays were six months away, jumped up and said: “It’s not fair! You are getting birthday cakes this month already, and ours are a long time away yet. Plus we are older, so we can eat more.”

The teacher listened to all that and asked for silence. She then asked the children whether it made sense if she were to reward with bigger slices the students who were never late to class or did better on tests and homework. Or maybe everyone could get a small equal slice and then only the students who were hungry for more, could get a second piece. 

“Lets vote and see which of these ideas you like the most” said the teacher, “Or we can roll a dice and see what number comes up by chance – these are two other ways of making the process fair.” 

Amazed, the students realized that what was fair really depended on how you chose to look at it and what the group agreed to. So – if this was you, how would YOU split the cake?

Original story by Alexandra T. Greenhill, physician mom CEO myBestHelper (inspired by the economics concept of cake cutting as illustration for fair division)  

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