polynomial, mathematical expression which is a finite sum, each term being a constant times a product of one or more variables raised to powers. With only one variable the general form of a polynomial is a 0 x n + a 1 x n - 1+ a 2 x n - 2+…+ a n - 1 x + a n where n is a positive integer and a 0, a 1, a 2, … , a n are any numbers. An example of a polynomial in one variable is 11 x 4 - 3 x 3+7 x 2+ x - 8. The degree of a polynomial in one variable is the highest power of the variable appearing with a nonzero coefficient; in the example given above, the degree is 4.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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