Numbers are everywhere: 12 students in a classroom, 6 ice cream cones in the park, 147 leaves on a tree, and 1 rainbow in the sky. So what really are numbers made of? One good response the 6th graders at Advent gave to this (seemingly ridiculous) question is that numbers are made of other numbers. For example, 12 can be written “3 times 4” and “6 times 2.” Indeed, it is often helpful to think of numbers as the product of their factors. Specifically, the prime factorization of a number can be beneficial for doing mathematical operation and analysis involving that number. The prime factorization of a number is the unique way that a number can be written as the product of prime numbers. In 6th grade math, students recently created projects to demonstrate one particular use of prime factorization.
Part of the prime factorization project was to demonstrate visually how we can use prime factorization to find greatest common factor and least common multiple of a set of numbers. Students used various visual aids in their projects. Another part of the project was a factor tree infused into a picture. Making a factor tree involves splitting a number into factors, then splitting those factors into factors until only prime numbers are left. Students combined creativity with mathematical calculations to construct fun factor tree pictures. Some student designs were trees with leaves, raindrops falling from a cloud, and even a pig eating candy.