This was a real life problem solved by 'Appaji' Prime Minister of Vijayanagara kindom. He was selected at the age of 6(and then went through rigorous training) when he solved two puzzles viz., making a line smaller without erasing it and getting a sword which was kept at the other end of a long carpet without stepping on it. Apart from gauging the intelligence, the two problems also gauge some essential characteristics a prime minister should possess(during those times). He proved to be one of the great primeministers of India(as strong as Bismark and as wise as King Solmon) The problem goes.... A merchant had 17 elephants. He called his three sons to his death bed and asked them to share those elephants in a way that the first son should get 1/2 of them, the second one should get 1/3rd of them and the third one 1/9th. All elephants should be alive even after sharing them. The fighting started after the merchant's demise and the issue was taken to Appaji's court. The wise man thought a while and then solved it. PS: There is no cut to cut solution for this but there is a way out.