On a 4th grade test the question was asked:

17 is a multiple of only two numbers, 1 and 17. Tell why this statement is true.

If it is true then every number must be a multiple of 1 since 1 is a factor of every number. Right?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This post was put on hold since at the moment it is not about mathematics education. There is an ongoing discussion how to improve the question on meta meta.matheducators.stackexchange.com/questions/415/…. The post might be reopened then. $\endgroup$
    – quid
    Oct 29 '14 at 12:44

Welcome to the site, Donna. I hope you find my answer helpful to your situation. Please let us know if there's another aspect of the situation you'd like to think about with our help.

Test question: "17 is a multiple of only two numbers, 1 and 17. Tell why this statement is true."

I think they are asking the student to show that 17 is not a multiple of any other numbers. To do so, one can show that dividing by 2,3, ... always leaves a remainder.

I think you are asking whether it is right to conclude that "every number must be a multiple of 1 since 1 is a factor of every number".

Yes, every whole number is a multiple of 1. We say that b is a multiple of a when a*n = b (where n is a whole number). Since 1*b = b, for any number b, all numbers are multiples of 1.

It sounds like you also want to double-check your understanding of the two words, 'factor' and 'multiple'. If b is a multiple of a, then a is a factor of b. The two terms describe the same situation from different perspectives.

Is this helpful to you?


Yes, every number and every thing is a multiple of one. 2 is. 5 is. 0.1 is. Potato salad is. Seriously, one times potato salad is still potato salad. Multiplying by one does nothing and you can do nothing to anything. And this has almost nothing to do with answering the test question. It just complicates the way it has to be asked. Answering the test question goes like this:

Because 17 is a PRIME number.

The word in the test question to obsess on here isn't multiple, or factor, it's ONLY.

BTW, the test question, as quoted, is actually false. It needs to be corrected to read:

17 is a multiple of only two whole numbers, 1 and 17. Tell why this statement is true.

Because there are an infinite number of numbers that can be multiplied together to give you 17: 1.7 x 10, sqrt(17) x sqrt(17), (17/2) x 2, etc. But there are only two whole numbers. That is why 17 is called a prime number. Any number that has only two whole number multiples is a prime number.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ To make a thing a multiple of one, you need to define some kind of multiplication. If you define multiplication by one to keep everything intact, then everything is a multiple of one. But this answer seems to digress from the question, which seems to be about only natural numbers where "multiple" implicitly means "integer multiple". $\endgroup$ Oct 28 '14 at 11:02
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I am digressing. Because the posted question and the test question are actually dealing with different issues. I've tried to resolve both. $\endgroup$ Oct 28 '14 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for potato salad, my favorite math teacher actually used "cow" in these situations, I thought that was cool. Your edit "whole" is a good suggestion, but the question is a quote, and that's what we have to deal with. We can edit the OP's question, but not the quoted section. In my opinion. $\endgroup$ Oct 29 '14 at 13:11
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, multiplying cow by 1 certainly works as well. Watch and be amazed as I do it to your checking account! Whooo! See how each number is still the same? Wish that worked with 2. In a universe that considers a fraction a number the test question is just plain false. I'd give any student that called me on that full marks if not extra credit. Nothing implies integers here. Expecting that to be understood is just making the student play, "guess what I'm thinking". $\endgroup$ Oct 29 '14 at 14:10

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.