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  1. What is prime factorization?
  1. Determine if the numbers are prime or composite.
    1. 19, 199, 118
  2. What are the prime factors of the following numbers?
    1. 48
    2. 525
    3. 100
    4. 4550
    5. 2318
Topic Notes
A prime number is a whole number which can only be divided evenly by one or itself. Composite numbers are whole numbers that is not prime or has more than two factors. Prime factorization is a process that looks for prime factors of a number.


One of the first things you'll need to learn about before tackling prime and composite numbers are factors. Factors are what you'll have to multiply together in order to get a certain number. So for example, the factors of 18 is 2 and 9 since 2 x 9 = 18. The divisor definition is a number that another number is to be divided with. In this case, 2 and 9 are each also known as a divisor.

Prime numbers

So what are prime numbers? Prime numbers are numbers that can only be factored by 1 and itself. An example of this is 2. You cannot get an answer of 2 in multiplication other than multiplying 2 with 1. 2 is known as a prime divisor.

Composite Numbers

Contrary to prime numbers, composite numbers are numbers that have more factors than just 1 and itself. It also is positive. For example, 9 can be factored into 3 x 3 or it can be 9 x 1. All whole numbers are either prime or composite, other than the number 1 and 0. 0 has an infinite amount of factors, whereas 1 cannot be made up of anything that is not itself.

Factor Tree

To tackle the questions in this lesson, you're going to have to learn about a factor tree. A factor tree breaks down a number so that you're able to identify its prime factors. The steps to making a factor tree is:

1) Write down the number you are trying to factorize at the top of the tree

2) Draw two branches stemming from the number downwards

3) Break down the original number into two factors and write it at the end of the branches you just drew in the previous step

4) Continue breaking down the numbers into factors at the end of branches until you're left with all prime numbers and there are no more factors to be found

5) Take all the numbers at the end of the factor tree branches to find out the prime factors of your original number

Continuous division

You can use a method called continuous division to find the greatest common factor (GCF) of a number. The GCF also deals with prime numbers. You can carry out continuous division by:

1) Writing down the two numbers you're trying to find the GCF of

2) Draw an "L" shape surrounding them

3) Divide both the numbers by a common factor

4) Write the answers you get underneath the bar

5) Continue doing this until all the numbers you're left with as answers are prime numbers

6) Multiply together all the numbers on the left hand side (that has been common factors of the numbers inside the "L") and you'll get your GCF

Example problems

Question 1:

1a) Factors of 1212



434 \bullet 3

Since 44 is not a prime number, we can break it down into two times two

2232 \bullet 2 \bullet 3

We are done now because all the numbers are prime, but we can group up the same numbers in exponent form.

2232^{2} \bullet 3

1b) Factors of 2424



2122 \bullet 12

2262 \bullet 2 \bullet 6

22232 \bullet 2 \bullet 2 \bullet 3

And in exponent form

2332^{3}\bullet 3

Question 2

2a) Factors 3030 using factor tree


Use factor tree to factorize 30
Use factor tree to factorize 30

2b) Factors of 5454 using factor tree


Use factor tree to factorize 54
Use factor tree to factorize 54

2c) Factors of 2828, using tree


Use factor tree to factorize 28
Use factor tree to factorize 28

1414 is not prime, so it can be factored further.

Continue to factorize because 14 is not a prime
Continue to factorize as 14 is not prime

Question 3

What is the greatest common factor between 160160 and 144144, using continuous division?

Use continuous division to find the greatest common factor of two numbers
Use continuous division to find greatest common factor of two numbers

Got a number in mind you wanted to check the prime factors for? Here's a prime factor calculator you can check out.

Want to learn more related to this lesson? Take a look at how to use exponents to describe numbers, the product rule of exponents, how to find common factors of polynomials, and factoring polynomials.

Numbers that can be multiplied together to give the original value.
Ex: The factor of 15 is 5 & 3. Because 5×3=155 \times 3 = 15
Prime numbers:
A whole number that has only "two" factors: 1 & itself.
Ex: 2,3,5,7,11,13,17…
Composite numbers:
A Whole number that is not prime or has more than 2 factors.
Ex: 4,6,8…
Zero & One:
They are neither prime nor composite.
Factor Tree:
A method of finding prime factors by using a tree diagram.
Ex: Prime factors of 18=2×3×318 = 2 \times 3 \times 3
factor tree of 18
Continuous Division:
A method of finding prime factors by using a continuous division.
Ex: Prime factors of 72=2×2×2×3×372 = 2 \times 2 \times 2 \times 3 \times 3
continuous division of 72