Nowadays, I'm anti-factoring trees. It's funny, because they're not usually part of the classes I teach, but they've come up a few times recently -- including twice just yesterday (as I write this), when they were included in a new book I received, and then within an hour a student came asking about them (because they were part of a YouTube lecture on reducing radicals she'd been trying to watch).
By factoring trees, I mean the method for producing the unique prime factorization of a number that looks like this:
By which we can conclude (re-sorting the leaf nodes) that 48 = 2^4 * 3. Of course, this is pretty customary, and it's how pretty much everyone I know (including myself) learned how to do it.
But now my primary complaint against them is that they're a nonstandard method of writing mathematical relationships, and most of all, they're a lost opportunity to practice writing equality statements. With all the problems that students have using, writing, and understanding the equality sign, why not use this as an opening to reinforce their meaning -- especially so in a context just like this, where we do not intend to simplify (evaluate) on the right hand side? Why not instead write in a more standard format like this:
(Or whatever your preference is for use of parentheses or exact number of steps.) It highlights all these issues with the meaning of equality signs that we struggle with later on students' behalf, and it avoids using a special one-off writing technique for the singular task of factoring a number. It's likely easier to read for some students (who may have trouble identifying where the leaves of the tree are). It even saves on lines of paper, and is easier to type out in an email or website if you have to do that. This is actually what I do in class when it comes up now. The more mental connections we can make to the "correct" way of writing math, the better.