We will start off with polynomials in one variable. Polynomials in one variable are algebraic expressions that consist of terms in the form where n is a non-negative (i.e. positive or zero) integer and a is a real number and is called the coefficient of the term. The degree of a polynomial in one variable is the largest exponent in the polynomial.
Note that we will often drop the “in one variable” part and just say polynomial.
Here are examples of polynomials and their degrees.
So, a polynomial doesn’t have to contain all powers of x as we see in the first example. Also, polynomials can consist of a single term as we see in the third and fifth example.
We should probably discuss the final example a little more. This really is a polynomial even it may not look like one. Remember that a polynomial is any algebraic expression that consists of terms in the form . Another way to write the last example is
Written in this way makes it clear that the exponent on the x is a zero (this also explains the degree…) and so we can see that it really is a polynomial in one variable.
Here are some examples of things that aren’t polynomials.
The first one isn’t a polynomial because it has a negative exponent and all exponents in a polynomial must be positive.
To see why the second one isn’t a polynomial let’s rewrite it a little.
By converting the root to exponent form we see that there is a rational root in the algebraic expression. All the exponents in the algebraic expression must be non-negative integers in order for the algebraic expression to be a polynomial. As a general rule of thumb if an algebraic expression has a radical in it then it isn’t a polynomial.
Let’s also rewrite the third one to see why it isn’t a polynomial.
So, this algebraic expression really has a negative exponent in it and we know that isn’t allowed. Another rule of thumb is if there are any variables in the denominator of a fraction then the algebraic expression isn’t a polynomial.
Note that this doesn’t mean that radicals and fractions aren’t allowed in polynomials. They just can’t involve the variables. For instance, the following is a polynomial
There are lots of radicals and fractions in this algebraic expression, but the denominators of the fractions are only numbers and the radicands of each radical are only a numbers. Each x in the algebraic expression appears in the numerator and the exponent is a positive (or zero) integer. Therefore this is a polynomial.
Next, let’s take a quick look at polynomials in two variables. Polynomials in two variables are algebraic expressions consisting of terms in the form . The degree of each term in a polynomial in two variables is the sum of the exponents in each term and the degree of the polynomial is the largest such sum.
Here are some examples of polynomials in two variables and their degrees.
In these kinds of polynomials not every term needs to have both x’s and y’s in them, in fact as we see in the last example they don’t need to have any terms that contain both x’s and y’s. Also, the degree of the polynomial may come from terms involving only one variable. Note as well that multiple terms may have the same degree.
We can also talk about polynomials in three variables, or four variables or as many variables as we need. The vast majority of the polynomials that we’ll see in this course are polynomials in one variable and so most of the examples in the remainder of this section will be polynomials in one variable.
Next we need to get some terminology out of the way. A monomial is a polynomial that consists of exactly one term. A binomial is a polynomial that consists of exactly two terms. Finally, a trinomial is a polynomial that consists of exactly three terms. We will use these terms off and on so you should probably be at least somewhat familiar with them.
Now we need to talk about adding, subtracting and multiplying polynomials. You’ll note t