Prime Factorization of a Number in Python and why we check upto the square root of the Number

Why we go upto sqrt(n)​ for finding all Prime factorization of a number

To understand the above first note these two mathmatical conjectures for Prime Factorization of any number

1st contejecture

If n is not a prime number AT-LEAST one Prime factor would be less than √n


Suppose n is a positive integer such that n=pq, where p and q are prime numbers. Assume p > sqrt(n) and q > sqrt(n)​. Multiplying these inequalities we have p*q > sqrt(n)*sqrt(n) >​, which implies p*q >n. This is a contradiction to our hypothesis n=pq. Hence we can conclude that either

And the second conjecture

If n is not a prime number — There can be AT-MOST 1 prime factor of n greater than sqrt(n).

Proof :

If possible let there exists two greater sqrt(n) then their product should also divide n but which will exceed n, which contradicts our assumption. So there can NOT be more than 1 prime factor of n greater than sqrt(n).

And the above is so important in Prime Factorization of a number — So, in my above code when I want to get all the prime factors of n then I need at most check for Primality upto sqrt(n). And after checking upto sqrt(n) — the number left-over after dividing n with all possible powers of primes less than sqrt(n) is EITHER a prime or 1.

Note I am taking care of “all possible powers of primes” in the above code with the below portion inside the first while loop -

Meaning as soon as I find a Prime-factor, I am adjusting / reducing the initial number by dividing it by that just discovered prime-factor.

And so the second part of my algorithm should capture the left-over number to be the greater-than sqrt(n) Prime factor ONLY if that left-over number is > 1 . And if the left-over number is = 1 then just ignore it.

First here the gist of the code

The Algorithm / Steps

1> I start the divisor to be the smallest prime number, which is 2. Divide by 2 as many times as I can, until I can no longer divide by 2. (And during this process, record the number of times I can successfully divide.)

Further on shy I am dividing or adjusting the initial number in the above

Say, if I do not divide — prime factors with greater than 1 multiplicity will result in the larger factor being non-prime. I dont want to consider about 2*n or 3*n because I have already checked and captured in my prime_factor list for 2 and 3

So, to solve the above problem, I keep dividing the larger factor of a pair by the smaller one until it no longer divides.

2> So with each successive while loop I am dividing the number by successively larger primes until I find one that is a factor of the number.

That is after the first division by 2 (assuming I found 2 to be a factor of the initial number), take the result from (1) i.e. the adjusted number after dividion by 2, and divide by 3 as many times as I can.

Then go to the next prime number, 5. Take the result from (2), and divide by 5 as many times as I can.

And during this successive divisions, as soon as I have found a factor or divisor, p , I can replace n with m=n/p and continue the process of trial division with primes greater than or equal to p up to (n/p)¹/2

Repeat the process, until final result is 1.

Now the most important part for improving time-complexity of the algorithm — which follows from the principle that -

In prime factorization of n the loop goes upto square root of n and not till n.

3> However, we don’t need to go out that far i.e. upto the number itself. If we’ve tested all the primes up to the square root of our target number without finding a divisor, we don’t need to go any further because we know that our target number is prime after all.

This is because — If a number N has a prime factor larger than √n , then it surely has a prime factor smaller than √n

So, it’s sufficient to search for prime factors in the range [1, sqrt(n)], and then use them in order to compute the prime factors in the range [sqrt(n), n].

The way we implement the above is as follows -

A. We know that prime factors with >1 multiplicity will result in the larger factor being non-prime. To solve this, keep dividing the larger factor of a pair by the smaller one until it no longer divides.

B. As an example: For 28, factors are 2,2,7, here 7 is larger than sqroot(28), but there is no single prime number that can combine to form 28 (i.e. x*7=28, where x is prime, this does not exist, since x is 4 which is not prime), so dividing the primes from beginning with 2 multiple time will help, 28/2= 14, 14/2 = 7, then we know the 2 & 2 are prime factors, also take the remaining one 7 is also another prime number completing the prime factor list.

If no prime factors exist in the range [1, sqrt(n)], then “n” itself is prime and there is no need to continue searching beyond that range.

To explain a little more on this — If you do not find a factor less than sqrt(n), then the number “n” itself is a prime number. Because, consider the opposite, you find two factors larger than sqrt(n), say “a” and “b”. But then a * b > sqrt(n) * sqrt(n) making their product larger than the number itself which is impossible.

Therefore, if there is a factor larger than sqrt(n), there must also exist a factor smaller than sqrt(n), otherwise their product would exceed the value of “n”.

But in this case it will make the variable ‘prime_num’ NON-PRIME — Because now itcan be expressed it as ( a * b ) which is only possible for NON-Prime number, as a Prime number can only be expressed as 1 * itself.

But here we are ONLY interested in finding Prime factors, and so will ignore all NON-PRIME FACTORS.

Hence in the above Algorithm, checking all the possible prime-number upto the math.sqrt(number) is sufficient

Written by

MachineLearning | DataScience | DeepLearning. Previously Frontend Engineer. Ex International Banking Analyst.

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