How Do I Use the Factors in Math Activities in Real Life?

How Do I Use the Factors in Math Activities in Real Life
••• GeorgeRudy/iStock/GettyImages

Once you understand basic math principles, you may not always recognize them when you use them in real life- just like you probably don't notice the alphabet each time you read. Factoring is a basic math concept that reverses multiplication, finding the numbers that multiply together to create a larger number. This concept has obvious applications in the real world.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Factoring is a useful skill in real life. Common applications include: dividing something into equal pieces, exchanging money, comparing prices, understanding time and making calculations during travel.

Dividing Something Equally

A key time you use factoring is when you must divide something into equal pieces. For example, if 6 people worked together to make brownies, and the pan of brownies yields 24 brownies, it would only be fair if everyone received the same number of brownies. Because 6 is a factor of 24, the brownies divide into equal shares without cutting them into smaller pieces. Dividing 24 by 6 gives a result of 4, so each person gets 4 brownies.

Factoring with Money

Exchanging money is another common function that relies on factoring. You probably already know that 4 quarters make a dollar. Looking at this in terms of factoring, 2 factors of 100 are 4 and 25. Similarly, you can exchange a twenty-dollar bill for 20 one-dollar bills (factors 1 and 20), 2 ten-dollar bills (factors 2 and 10) or 4 five-dollar bills (factors 4 and 5).

Comparing Prices

You also use factoring while shopping to compare prices per unit. For example, there are two cans of an expensive coffee blend on sale. A 12-ounce can costs $36.00, and a 6-ounce can costs $24.00. Using factors, you can compare the price per ounce without using a calculator or notepad. Dividing 36 by 12, the factors of 36 are 3 and 12. Dividing 24 by 6, the factors of 24 are 4 and 6. Using this information, you know that the 12-ounce can costs $3.00 per ounce and the 6-ounce can costs $4.00 per ounce.

Understanding Time

Time is another opportunity to use factoring in the real world. Every day contains 24 hours; if you must take a pill 3 times per day, you take 1 pill every 8 hours (3 x 8 = 24). An hour divides into 60 minutes. Those 60 minutes divide into 12 increments of 5 minutes each on the face of a clock (12 x 5 = 60). When describing time, you might divide hours into quarters (4 x 15 = 60) and half-hour segments (2 x 30 = 60).

Traveling with Factors

Factors are also useful when traveling. If you travel 720 miles on vacation, you need to know how many hours you must drive so you can plan your trip. At an average speed of 60 mph, it would take 12 hours to get to your destination (60 x 12 = 720).

Understanding factoring allows you to easily navigate number relationships in the real world without relying on your calculator or phone to do the work for you.