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INFORMATICS IN EDUCATION, 2009, Vol. 8, No. 1, 35-48
© Institute of Mathematics and Informatics,

ISSN 1648-5831

Egyptian Fractions Revisited

Olga KOSHELEVAa, Vladik KREINOVICHb

aDepartment of Teacher Education, University of Texas at El Paso El Paso, Texas 79968, USA E-mail: olgak@utep.edu

bDepartment of Computer Science, University of Texas at El Paso El Paso, Texas 79968, USA

Abstract

It is well known that the ancient Egyptians represented each fraction as a sum of unit fractions - i.e., fractions with unit numerators; this is how they, e.g., divided loaves of bread. What is not clear is why they used this representation. In this paper, we propose a new explanation: crudely speaking, that the main idea behind the Egyptian fractions provides an optimal way of dividing the loaves. We also analyze the related properties of fractions.

Keywords:

Egyptian fractions, optimization, educational impact


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