Least Common Multiple – Definition with Examples

Home » Least Common Multiple – Definition with Examples

Least Common Multiple

Multiple is a number that can be divided by the given number without leaving a reminder. For example:

 20 is a multiple of 5 

Or, 5 × 4 = 20

And, 20 ÷ 5 = 4

Least common multiple

The least common multiple of two numbers is the “smallest non-zero common number” which is a multiple of both the numbers.

The different methods to find the least common multiple of two or more numbers are:

  • Using prime factorization
  • Using repeated division
  • Using multiples

1. LCM using prime factorization

In this method, a factorization tree for each given number is generated by listing the multiples of that number. The last branch of the tree has the least prime factors for that number.

For example, the factorization trees for 36 and 48 are generated as follows:

Prime Factorization

Figure: Prime factorization trees for the number 36 and 48

To find the LCM, pair the common multiples as shown. List them along with the remaining multiples.

LCM

LCM = 2 × 2 × 3 × 3 × 2 × 2

LCM = 144

2. LCM using repeated division

In this method, the given numbers are divided by the common divisors until there is no possible further division by the common number. The divisors and the remainders are multiplied together to obtain the LCM.

LCM

LCM =  2 × 2 × 3 × 4 × 3

LCM = 144

3. LCM using multiples

To find the LCM using multiples, list the multiples of the numbers in the table as shown. The least common multiple is the first common multiple for the given numbers. 

 123456789101112
363672108144180216252288324360396432
484896144192240288336384432480528576

For 36 and 48, the number 144 is the LCM.

Application

The dimension of using LCM of two numbers starts with basic math operations such as addition and subtraction on fractional numbers. In math problems where we pair two objects against each other, the LCM value is useful in optimizing the quantities of the given objects. Also, in computer science, the LCM of numbers helps design encoded messages using cryptography.

Fun Facts
1. Greeks used the wax tablets to record multiplication tables in 1st century AD
2. William Oughtred used the symbol “?” for multiplication in the 15th century to teach math
  • Multiples and multiplication
  • Highest Common Factor (HCF)
  • Fractions

Practice Problems

Least Common Multiple

Attend this Quiz & Test your knowledge.

1LCM of two numbers is 8. If one of the numbers is 2, what could the other number be?

8
16
10
5
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: 8
The LCM of a prime number and any of its multiples is the multiple itself.

2Identify the pair of numbers that have their LCM = 11.

2 and 22
1 and 11
0 and 11
11 and 22
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: 1 and 11
The LCM of two numbers can only be a prime number if one of the numbers is the LCM itself and the other number is 1.

3Find the LCM of the numbers 16 and 20.

320
20
16
80
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: 80
Prime factorization of 16 = 2 × 2 × 2 × 2
Prime factorization of 20 = 2 × 2 × 5
Pairing common factors and multiplying with independent factors,
LCM= 2 × 2 × 2 × 2 × 5 = 80

4Find the LCM of the numbers 2 and 5.

2
5
10
7
CorrectIncorrect
Correct answer is: 10
The lowest common multiple among the multiples of 2 and 5 is 10. Also, since 2 and 5 are prime numbers, their LCM is 2 × 5 = 10.

Frequently Asked Questions

For a given set of numbers, the LCM is the smallest number that is a multiple of every one of the numbers.

Start making multiples of each of them… one times the numbers, two times the numbers, three times the numbers, and so on. As soon as you find a multiple that is the same for all the numbers; that’s the least common multiple.

The LCM of two or more numbers is the smallest number that is a multiple of every one of the numbers. The GCF of two or more numbers is the greatest factor that these numbers share.

In music studios where different instruments are playing a different number of beats per minute (e.g., 10 bpm, 8 bpm, 2 bpm), music composers need to calculate the LCM to find out how many beats per minute they need.


Least Common Multiple – Definition with Examples

Number Sequence

Play Now
Least Common Multiple – Definition with Examples

Number Recognition

Play Now
Least Common Multiple – Definition with Examples

Even and Odd Numbers

Play Now