Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!
Print

Maths

Common factors

Factorising an expression simplifies it in some way. Factorising is the reverse of expanding brackets.

Common factors

If you cannot remember what factors are, or how to find them, have another look at Re-arranging symbols.

When multiplying out 3(4x - 7), the rule was to multiply everything in the brackets by 3.

This gives 3(4x - 7) = 12x - 21

So, when asked to factorise 12x - 21 look for the Highest Common Factor (HCF) of 12 and 21 (in this case 3) and divide both terms by this number.

12x - 21 = 3(4x - 7)

Question

Factorise 24a + 16

toggle answer

Answer

24a + 16 = 8(3a + 2)

Therefore, the HCF of 24 and 16 is 8.

Factorising Quadratics

You can also factorise quadratic expressions. For example x2+x can be factorised as x is a common factor to both terms.

x2+x = x (x+1)

Example

Factorise 3p2 - 6p

Solution

  • 3p2 means 3 x p x p, and 6p means 6 x p.
  • The HCF of 3 and 6 is 3, and the HCF of p2 and p is p, so we divide both terms by 3p:

3p2 - 6p = 3p(p - 2)

Most people find expanding brackets easier than factorising, so always check that your answer is correct by multiplying out and seeing whether you have what you started with.

Back to Algebra index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.