What is a Prime Factor? - Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 Ingredients of a Number
  • 0:31 Prime Factors
  • 1:09 Factor Trees
  • 2:18 Finding Prime Factors
  • 2:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

Factorization is the process of breaking a number into its most basic parts. In this lesson, learn the definition of factors, prime numbers, and prime factors. We'll use a factor tree to find the prime factorization of a number.

Ingredients of a Number

Have you ever had a Boston cream donut? It's made of a cakey outside with cream inside and chocolate frosting on top. The cake, cream, and frosting are the parts of the donut. But those parts can be broken down into smaller ingredients, like flour, sugar, and yeast. Like the Boston cream donut, a number can be broken down into smaller parts. The smaller numbers that are multiplied together to form a number are called factors. Factors are the ingredients of a number.

Prime Factors

Let's look at the number 32. We can multiply 4 times 8 to get 32, so 4 and 8 are factors of 32. But 4 and 8 are like the frosting and the cream in the donut; they are parts, but they are not the smallest possible parts. The numbers 4 and 8 can each be divided evenly by another number: the number 2. The 2 is a prime number, a number divisible only by 1 and itself. That means 2 is a prime factor of 32. A prime factor is a factor that is also a prime number. In other words, it's one of the smallest components of the number, and it can only be divided by 1 and by itself.

Factor Trees

When trying to determine the basic ingredients of a donut, we look at the recipe. When trying to determine the basic ingredients of a number, the prime factors, we can make a factor tree. Look at this picture of the factor tree for 32.

Factor Tree for 32.
factor tree for 32

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