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Math Trek

A Fair Deal for Housemates

4:20pm, September 10, 2002

Four friends move into a house and find they must choose among four rooms of different size and quality. Instead of sharing the rent equally, they decide to divide the total so that each person ends up satisfied with his or her combination of room and rent. Can they do it?

This is an issue that mathematics can settle, both elegantly and constructively, says mathematician Francis Edward Su of Harvey Mudd College in Clarement, Calif. Su has developed a new approach to the question of fair division and now offers an interactive Web site (http://www.math.hmc.edu/~su/fairdivision/) where people can go to resolve disputes over the splitting up of rent, goods, or even

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