How to Factor Polynomials

Factoring is the opposite of distributing. If you can find a common factor, you can reduce an expression.

You will need

  • A polynomial
  • A pencil
  • Paper

Step 1 Find the greatest common factor Look at the expression and find the greatest common factor for each term. For the expression 2×2 + 4x, both terms contain factors of 2 and factors of x.

Step 2 Factor out greatest common factor Remove the largest factors common shared by each term – 2 and x – and place them outside a set of empty parentheses.

Step 3 Determine what GCF is multiplied with Determine the greatest common factor of each term of the expression. In the example, it’s 2x. Then, determine what it is multiplied with to equal the original two terms and place those terms inside the parentheses. 2x times x equals 2×2, and 2x times 2 equals 4x.

Step 4 Find the difference of squares Finding the difference of two squares is another type of factoring. In the expression x2 – 4, x2 is the square of x and 4 is the square of 2.

Step 5 Make parentheses To factor the difference of two squares, draw two sets of parentheses. On the left side of each set of parentheses, split the first square, x2, into two x’s.

Step 6 Split second square Write the second square in the right side of the parentheses. Since the second term is being subtracted, each set of parentheses must have a different sign.