Talmud’s math problem to be explained Nov. 2

October 31, 2016 | Events, UToday, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Staff

How mathematicians finally solved an ancient numerical quandary will be the topic of a talk Wednesday, Nov. 2.

Dr. Alessandro Arsie, UT associate professor of mathematics, will discuss “A Mathematical Puzzle From the Talmud” at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Field House Room 2100.



For more than 1,500 years, scholars were trying to reveal the algorithm that the Talmud, a compendium of Jewish laws, used to divide the estate of a man who died and whose wealth was too small to pay his debts.

“The Talmud provided the following example: There are three creditors. Creditor one is owed 100, creditor two is owed 200, and creditor three is owed 300,” Arsie said. “Tractate Ketubot 93a says if the estate of the man who died is 100, then each creditor gets 33 and 1/3; if the estate of the man who died is 200, then creditor one gets 50 and creditors two and three both get 75; if the estate of the man who died is 300, then creditor one gets 50, creditor two gets 100, and creditor three gets 150.”

Arsie will analyze the algorithm in this example. This algorithm was discovered by Dr. Robert Aumann and Dr. Michael Maschler during the 1980s.

“I will explain their ingenious solution and its relation to game theory with some other mathematical algorithms that appear in the Talmud,” Arsie said. “Within the framework of Jewish culture, the solution provides insight into the moral question of what creditors are owed when they can’t be paid in full.”

The free, public event is sponsored by Delta X, Pi Mu Epsilon National Mathematics Honor Society at the University, the Mathematics and Statistics Department, and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

In addition to the lecture, four students will be inducted into Pi Mu Epsilon.

For more information on the lecture, contact Dr. Ivie Stein Jr., UT associate professor of mathematics, at ivie.stein@utoledo.edu or 419.530.2994.