Is there a quick-and-easy way to find the LCM for three or more numbers … WITHOUT prime factorizing?

Of course! We’ll demonstrate the technique by finding the LCM for 10, 14, 20.

To begin, use the technique for finding the GCF for 10, 14, 20 that’s shown in my post: **How to Find GCF for 3+ Numbers — FAST … no prime factorizing**. If you don’t want to go to that post, no worries. I’ll re-show the technique here.

**1st)** Write the numbers from left to right:

………. 10 14 20

[The periods: …… are just to indent the lines. They have no mathematical meaning.]

**2nd)** If possible, rip out a factor common to all numbers. The factor 2 is common. So divide the three numbers by 2 [10 ÷ 2 = **5** and 20 ÷ 2 = **10**] and show the result below:

2 | 10 14 20

………. 5 7 10

**3rd)** At this point, notice there’s no number that goes into the remaining numbers: 5, 7, 10. That means you’ve found that the GCF is the number pulled out, 2. At this point we’re at a crossroads. We’re done finding the GCF, but now we’re at the start of a new process, finding the LCM.

To proceed toward getting the LCM, see if there’s any number that goes into any **pair** of remaining numbers. Well, 5 goes into 5 and 10. So divide both those numbers by 5 [5 ÷ 5 = **1** and 10 ÷ 5 =** 2**] , and show the results below:

2 | 10 14 20

5 | 5 7 10

……….. 1 7 2

Notice that if there’s a number 5 doesn’t go into, you leave that number as is. So leave the 7 as 7.

**4th)** Repeat. See if there’s a number that goes into two of the remaining numbers. Since nothing goes into 1, 7, and 2, we’re done. To get the LCM, multiply all of the outer numbers. That means you multiply the numbers you pulled out on the left (2 and 5), and also multiply the numbers at the bottom (1, 7 and 2). Ignoring the meaningless 1, you have: ** 2 x 5 x 7 x 2 = 140**, and that’s the LCM.

To see the process in more depth, let’s find the LCM for … not three, not four … but five numbers:

6, 12, 18, 30, 36.

**1st)** Write the numbers left to right:

……… 6 12 18 30 36

**2nd)** If possible, rip out a common factor. 2 is common, so divide all by 2 and show the results below:

2 | 6 12 18 30 36

………. 3 6 9 15 18

**3rd)** Repeat. See if there’s a number that goes into the five remaining numbers. 3 goes into all, so divide all by 3 and show the results below:

2 | 6 12 18 30 36

3 | 3 6 9 15 18

…….. 1 2 3 5 6

**4th) **Repeat. See if any number goes into the last remaining numbers. Nothing goes into all of them, so now you get the GCF by multiplying the left-hand column numbers. GCF = 2 x 3 = 6.

Proceeding to find the LCM, look for any number that goes into **two or more** of the remaining numbers. One such number is 3, which goes into the remaining 3 and 6. Divide those numbers by 3 and leave the other numbers as they are.

2 | 6 12 18 30 36

3 | 3 6 9 15 18

3 | 1 2 3 5 6

……… 1 2 1 5 2

**5th) ** Interesting! Notice that** **2 goes into the two remaining 2s, so pull out a 2 and show the results below:

2 | 6 12 18 30 36

3 | 3 6 9 15 18

3 | 1 2 3 5 6

2 | 1 2 1 5 2

…….. 1 1 1 5 1

**6th)** We’ve whittled the bottom row’s numbers so far down that finally there’s no number that goes into two or more of them (except 1, which doesn’t help). So we have all the numbers we need to find the LCM. Multiply them together. The left column gives us: 2 x 3 x 3 x 2. The bottom row gives us 1 x 1 x 1 x 5 x 1. Multiply all of those (non-1) numbers together, you get:

2 x 2 x 3 x 3 x 5 = 180, and that is the LCM! Pretty amazing, huh? And no prime factorizing, to boot.

Some people find that this process takes a bit of practice to get used to it. So here are a few problems to help you become an LCM-finding expert!

a) 12, 18, 30

b) 8, 18, 24

c) 15, 20, 30, 35

d) 16, 24, 40, 56

e) 16, 48, 64, 80, 112

And the answers. LCM for each set is:

a) 180

b) 72

c) 420

d) 1680

e) 6720

Comments on:"How to Find the LCM for 3+ Numbers — FAST!" (20)Scaffolded Mathsaid:This is great. I always joke that I wish the Euclidean Algorithm would be taught in schools, but I like this even better.

LikeLike

Kyazasaid:This is amazing. If this method were taught in schools when GCFs and LCMs are introduced, I have a feeling a lot more students would struggle a lot less with factoring and fractions.

LikeLike

Kavinsaid:Thank you so much…..you can’t imagine the extent to which this method helped me, I truly learned something…. I’m forever in debt to you

LikeLike

Ashleysaid:Thank you for your help!

LikeLike

Trisasaid:This is fantastic! What a great way to teach students. Thank you so much for sharing!

LikeLike

Ishasaid:Thanks! This was a BIG help

@-Isha

LikeLike

Cindysaid:What if your numbers have NO common factor??? :O

LikeLike

Josh Rappaportsaid:Then the LCM is simply the product of the numbers. Example. if the numbers are 11, 13 and 17, the LCM is the product of 11, 13 and 17, which is 2,431. Moral of the story: the more common factors the numbers have, and the greater those common factors are, the smaller their LCM. And vice-versa, the fewer common factors they have, and the smaller those common factors are, the greater their LCM.

LikeLike

Anil Yavagalsaid:Excellent!

LikeLike

Jude Franco Gonzalessaid:Thank you very much! Very helpful!

LikeLike

Brintha shivakumarsaid:Atlast I found the easy way to teach my little one. Very easy to understand. Thank you.

LikeLike

Your Niecesaid:This way really worked better than my pre-algebra book!!

LikeLike

joshsaid:not gonna lie, this is the reason I now know how to find the LCM, otherwise I would’ve failed my maths exam

LikeLike

Josh Rappaportsaid:Glad that it helped you so much!

LikeLike

STUTIsaid:This is so cool !! Thanks Josh

LikeLike

Sophiesaid:OMG you don’t even know how much this helped me!! Thanks to you I passed my test (Which was like 20% of my grade) I am in 5th grade and this helped me and my friend soooo much!! You’re the best! Thank you!!

LikeLike

Muskaansaid:Thank you so much for this great method!

LikeLike

Mr.potatosaid:I Was taught the old method in school, but I was a good student and I came up with this theory myself, but I wondered if anybody else came up with the theory, and they did.

LikeLike

deryasaid:hi can you explain exactly what each step is doing, as in why you are doing it

LikeLike

Josh Rappaportsaid:Basically you are pulling out the factors that are common to all of the terms. Then you multiply those factors together. That is how you get the greatest number that is a common factor. Hope that helps!

LikeLike