Scale Factor Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Mark Boster
Sometimes you may want to make something larger or smaller than it really is. You might want to make an object smaller, so it fits in a smaller area. Maybe you want it bigger, so playing with it would be easier. Either way, you need to know what scale factor is so your object does not look odd when you finish shrinking or enlarging it.

Making Things Smaller

Benjamin's father was an architect who made drawings and models of buildings. One day his father brought home a little cardboard building that was built to the scale of a new building that was going to be built downtown. It looked just like a real building, just smaller. Do you ever wonder if you could use scale factor to create something tiny, but that still looks like the real thing?


Benjamin decided to try and build a scale factor doghouse for his dog, Smedley. Scale factor is the number used to multiply the dimensions of one object by to get an object that looks the same but it is larger or smaller than the original object. For example, if you have a square that is one foot on each side, and use the scale factor of two, then each side of the square would be multiplied by two. This makes the square large. Now each side of the square is two feet.

Perhaps there is a triangle that is two inches high and one inch wide. Well, using the scale factor of 1/2, the triangle would become smaller. Now the triangle is one inch high and .5 inches wide. In other words, the sides would all be .5 (half) as long.

Look at the diagram of the triangles and squares; you can see that changing the scale factor does not alter the shape at all, just the size. It is just like if you put a picture on a copy machine and made it larger or smaller. It would look exactly the same except for the size.

Shapes and Scale Factors

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