Intermediate Algebra 5th Edition
When used as a noun the word factor refers to the individual parts of a product. When used as a verb (to factor) it means to write something as a product.
For example, in many arithmetic situations recognizing the number 136 as the product of 8 and 17 is a benefit. In such situations it is customary to claim that to factor 136 as (8)(17) is a simplification. In the same way factorizations of polynomials is usually a simplification. There are several methods for factoring polynomials. No single one of these methods is sufficient for all occassions, but in combination they can yield a factored (simplified) form of seemingly complex polynomials.
The very first step when factoring any polynomial is to identify the GCF of the terms of the polynomial and to write the polynomial as a product with the GCF as one of the factors. The Distributive Property is used to verify that the factorization is correct. A common phrase used to refer to this procedure is "to factor out the GCF".
Factoring is a SKILL that can be quite helpful. This is one of the few topics in mathematics where practice is really beneficial. Practice by working as many exercises as time permits.