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Missing Factor Problems in Math

The type of problem that has a missing factor (missing-factor problems) has a certain way to be solved. The path to solution can be expressed in a 12-word sentence which young students can count out on their fingers: "To find a missing factor, divide the product by the known factor." Twelve little words which are not hard to commit to memory. Why is this important? This is important because very many word problems can be solved by setting up an equation into a missing factor problem. Working with this skill puts some emphasis on vocabulary in math -- because the student must recognize which number is actually the "product" and which number actually is the "known factor." The "unknown factor" would be represented by a blank in the equation. One takes the product and divides it by the known factor to arrive at the unknown factor. Students should be taught this skill from about grade 3 or 4, certainly by grades 5 and 6, and by grades 7 and 8, they should immediately recognize a "missing factor" problem and have the 12-word sentence in their mind to apply to solving it. This leads the student into algebra where"x's" abound, frequently representing missing factors. Knowing the 12-word sentence to solve a missing-factor problem helps the student as they get into algebra in their freshman year of high school, where a missing factor may be represented by an "x."

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