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Number Properties - Interesting GCF Properties

Sometimes students come up looking for explanations of concepts they come across in books. Actually, in Quant, you can establish innumerable inferences from the theory of any topic. The point is that you should be comfortable with the theory. You should be able to deduce your own inferences from your understanding of the topic. If you come across some so-called rules, you should be able to say why they hold. Let’s discuss a couple of such rules from number properties regarding GCF (greatest common factor). Many of you might read them for the first time. Stop and think why they must hold.


Rule 1: Consecutive multiples of ‘x’ have a GCF of ‘x’


Explanation: What do we mean by consecutive multiples of x? They are the consecutive terms in the multiplication table of x. For example, 4x and 5x are consecutive multiples of x. So are 18x and 19x…


What will be the greatest common factor of 18x and 19x? We know that x is their common factor. Do 18 and 19 have any common factors (except 1)? No. So greatest common factor will be x. Take any two consecutive numbers. They will have no common factors except 1. Hence, if we have two consecutive factors of x, their GCF will always be x.


Can you derive some of your own ‘rules’ based on this now? Let’s give you some ideas:

Two consecutive integers have GCF of 1.

Two consecutive odd multiples of x have GCF of x.


Rule 2: The G.C.F of two distinct numbers cannot be larger than the difference between the two numbers.


Explanation: GCF is a factor of both the numbers. Say, the GCF of two distinct numbers is x. This means the two numbers are mx and nx where m and n have no common factor. What can be the smallest difference between m and n? m and n cannot be equal since the numbers are distinct. The smallest difference between them can be 1 i.e. they can be consecutive numbers. In that case, the difference between mx and nx will be x which is equal to the GCF. If m and n are not consecutive integers, the difference between them will be much larger than x. The difference between mx and nx cannot be less than x.
Say, GCF of two numbers is 6. The numbers can be 12 and 18 (GCF = 6) or 12 and 30 (GCF = 6) etc but they cannot be 12 and 16 since both numbers must have 6 as a factor. So after a multiple of 6, the other multiple of 6 must be at least 6 away.


Let’s look at a third party question based on these concepts now.


Question 1: What is the greatest common factor of x and y?

Statement 1: Both x and y are divisible by 4.
Statement 2: x – y = 4




Statement 1: Both x and y are divisible by 4


We know that 4 is a factor of both x and y. But is it the highest common factor? We do not know. There could be another factor common between x and y and hence highest common factor could be greater than 4. e.g. 4 and 16 have 4 as the highest common factor but 12 and 36 have 12 as the highest common factor though both pairs have 4 as a common factor.


Statement 2: x – y = 4


We know that x and y differ by 4. So their GCF cannot be greater than 4 (as discussed above). The GCF could be any of 1/2/4 e.g. 7 and 11 have GCF of 1 while 2 and 6 have GCF of 2.

Taking both statements together: From statement 1, we know that x and y have 4 as a common factor. From statement 2, we know that x and y have one of 1/2/4 as highest common factor. Hence 4 is the highest common factor.


Answer (C)



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