You have a table full of different deserts or gifts for a group of children. Everyone wants to go first to get the best selection of items. You want:
- Everyone to be happy.
- To eliminate pushing to be in front of the line.
- Everyone to wait for their turn to select an item.
- To avoid favoritism complaints.
One technique for lining up the children in a “fair” way is to:
- Write a number for each child on an index card or a business card.
- Shuffle the cards.
- Have the children line up to receive a card.
- Once everyone has their card have the children line up in order based upon the number on their card to select their gift.
- If there is more than one item for each child, each child receives one item and then cycles through the line again for a second item, etc.
We go one step further. To:
- Have a “fun” process for the children.
- Make it even more likely that the items be distributed in a “fair” manner (since it is possible that the cards may not have been shuffled thoroughly).
- Reduce complaints from children (or parents) that the person handing out the cards favored one child over another (even if they did not).
- Select one child (perhaps the guest of honor) and securely blindfold the child.
- Hand the blindfolded child a fishbowl containing shuffled cards.
- Have all of the remaining children line up (after the first child is securely blindfolded).
- The blindfolded child then reaches into the fishbowl, selects a card and hands it to each child in line. (The child handing out the cards does not know the number on the card, or who they are giving the card to, so there is no chance of being unfair (unless the blindfold is not secure, and the blindfolded child can see around or through it).)
Ron would like to thank Dr. Margarita Posada Cossuto for helpful comments.