Number theory—the study of integer numbers—has fascinated mathematicians for years. Fundamental to number theory are whole numbers: 0, 1, 2, 3, and so on. The basic building blocks for all whole numbers are prime numbers. A prime number is a whole number that has only two factors: itself and one. When a number has more than two factors, it is said to be a composite number.
The numbers one and zero are unusual cases. The number one has only one factor and is considered to be neither prime nor composite. The number zero has an infinite number of factors, as zero can be divided evenly by anything except zero. For this reason, zero is also considered neither prime nor composite.
Check Your Understanding:
- Is 36 a prime number or composite number? (Composite, because it has many factors other than 1 and 36: 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, and 18.)
- What are all of the prime numbers less than 10? (2, 3, 5, and 7.)
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