In mathematics, a factor is a number or quantity that divides another number or quantity without leaving a remainder. In other words, a factor is a divisor of a given number or quantity.

For example, let’s consider the number 12. The factors of 12 are 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12. This means that 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12 can all divide 12 without leaving a remainder.

Factors are important in many areas of mathematics, including algebra, number theory, and geometry. They can be used to solve equations, simplify expressions, and analyze geometric shapes.

**Here are some common terms related to factors:**

**Prime facto**r: A prime factor is a factor that is a prime number. For example, the prime factors of 12 are 2 and 3.**Composite factor:**A composite factor is a factor that is not a prime number. For example, the composite factors of 12 are 4, 6, and 12.**Greatest common factor (GCF):**The greatest common factor is the largest factor that two or more numbers have in common. For example, the GCF of 12 and 18 is 6, since 6 is the largest factor that both 12 and 18 have in common.**Least common multiple (LCM):**The least common multiple is the smallest number that two or more numbers divide into evenly. For example, the LCM of 4 and 6 is 12, since 12 is the smallest number that both 4 and 6 divide into evenly.

Now, let’s work through some examples to help illustrate the concept of factors.

**Example 1:** Find all the factors of 24.

To find the factors of 24, we need to find all the numbers that divide 24 without leaving a remainder. We can start by listing the first few numbers and checking if they divide evenly:

- 1 divides into 24, leaving no remainder
- 2 divides into 24, leaving no remainder
- 3 does not divide into 24 evenly
- 4 divides into 24, leaving no remainder
- 5 does not divide into 24 evenly

We can continue this process until we reach 24. The factors of 24 are 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24.

**Example 2:** Find the prime factors of 42.

To find the prime factors of 42, we can use a method called prime factorization. This involves breaking down a composite number into its prime factors. Here’s how we can do this for 42:

- Divide 42 by the smallest prime number, which is 2. We get 21.
- Divide 21 by the smallest prime number, which is 3. We get 7.
- 7 is a prime number, so we can stop here.

The prime factors of 42 are 2, 3, and 7.

**Example 3:** Find the GCF of 18 and 24.

To find the GCF of 18 and 24, we can start by listing the factors of each number:

- Factors of 18: 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 18
- Factors of 24: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 24

We can see that the common factors are 1, 2, 3, and 6. The largest of these is 6, therefore, the greatest common factor of 18 and 24 is 6.

**Example 4:** Find the LCM of 4 and 7.

To find the LCM of 4 and 7, we can list the multiples of each number until we find the smallest multiple they have in common:

- Multiples of 4: 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40, 44, 48, …
- Multiples of 7: 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70, …

We can see that the smallest multiple that 4 and 7 have in common is 28. Therefore, the LCM of 4 and 7 is 28.

**Conclusion:**

In conclusion, factors are an important concept in mathematics that can be used to solve various problems, including finding prime factors, GCF, LCM, and more.

By understanding the definition of factors and the related terms, as well as practicing examples, you can develop a solid foundation in mathematics that will help you tackle more complex problems in the future.