Math principles can help resolve disputes

Nov. 6, 2006 at 2:18 PM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- The time-honored "you cut, I choose" resolution for divvying cake can be improved through mathematics, researchers in the United States and Austria said.

While this dispute resolution method may reduce feelings of envy, the scientists said it didn't consider equitability, the American Mathematical Society said in a news release. Equitability takes into that account subjective value each person places on a divided object might not be the same.

Using a method called Surplus Procedure, which they devised, researchers describe a way to divide something that provides about the same percentage of subjective value -- and sense of fairness -- to both sides, the mathematics organization said.

Mathematically, the sense of fairness is fair division, in which each person feels he or she received the best piece. One researcher, Steven Brams of New York University, studied fair division algorithms and how they relate to non-mathematics fields, the American Mathematical Society said.

Brams said he, Michael Jones of Montclair State University and Christian Klamler of Austria's University of Graz propose a more scientific approach to resolving disputes, the math organization said. The reasoning behind fair-division algorithms shows how mathematics principles can make dispute resolution more precise.

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