# Degree of Polynomial: Definition, Types, Examples, How to Find Degree of Polynomial?

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Posted by Osman Gezer, 2/20/24

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Polynomials play a fundamental role in mathematics, particularly in algebra. They are used to model various real-world phenomena, solve equations, and make predictions. One crucial aspect of polynomials is their degree, which provides valuable information about their behavior and properties. In this article, we will explore the concept of the degree of a polynomial, its different types, and how to find it in various scenarios.

## What is a Polynomial?

Before diving into the degree of a polynomial, let’s first understand what a polynomial is. A polynomial is an algebraic expression consisting of variables, coefficients, and exponents. It is a sum of terms, where each term is a product of a coefficient and one or more variables raised to non-negative integer exponents. Here’s an example of a polynomial:

f(x) = 3x^2 + 2x – 5

In this polynomial, 3x^2, 2x, and -5 are the terms, and 3, 2, and -5 are the coefficients. The variable x is raised to the exponents 2 and 1 in the respective terms.

## What is the Degree of a Polynomial?

The degree of a polynomial is the highest exponent of the variable in the polynomial when it is written in standard form. It provides essential information about the polynomial’s behavior, including the number of solutions it has and the shape of its graph.

To determine the degree of a polynomial, we look at the term with the highest exponent. Let’s take an example:

f(x) = 4x^3 + 2x^2 – 7x + 1

In this polynomial, the highest exponent is 3, which means the degree of the polynomial is 3. The degree indicates that the polynomial is a cubic polynomial.

### Degree of Zero Polynomial

A zero polynomial is a special case where all the coefficients are zero. In this case, the polynomial has no terms with non-zero coefficients, and therefore, no term has an exponent. As a result, the degree of the zero polynomial is undefined.

### Degree of Constant Polynomial

A constant polynomial is a polynomial where all the terms have the same exponent, which is zero. In other words, it is a polynomial with no variables. For example, f(x) = 5 is a constant polynomial. The degree of a constant polynomial is zero.

### Degree of a Polynomial With More Than One Variable

In polynomials with more than one variable, the degree is determined by the sum of the exponents of the variables in each term. The highest sum of exponents in the polynomial gives us the degree.

For example, consider the polynomial f(x, y) = 3x^2y^3 + 2xy^4. The sum of exponents in the first term is 2 + 3 = 5, and in the second term, it is 1 + 4 = 5. Therefore, the degree of this polynomial is 5.

### Degree of Linear Polynomials

A linear polynomial is a polynomial of degree 1. It consists of only one term with a non-zero coefficient and a variable raised to the first power. For example, f(x) = 2x – 3 is a linear polynomial. The degree of a linear polynomial is always 1.

### Degree of Quadratic Polynomial

A quadratic polynomial is a polynomial of degree 2. It consists of a term with the variable raised to the second power, along with other terms with lower exponents. For example, f(x) = x^2 + 2x + 1 is a quadratic polynomial. The highest exponent is 2, so the degree of this polynomial is 2.

### Degree of Cubic Polynomial

A cubic polynomial is a polynomial of degree 3. It consists of a term with the variable raised to the third power, along with other terms with lower exponents. For example, f(x) = 4x^3 – 2x^2 + x – 5 is a cubic polynomial. The highest exponent is 3, so the degree of this polynomial is 3.

### Degree of Bi-quadratic Polynomial

A bi-quadratic polynomial is a polynomial of degree 4. It consists of a term with the variable raised to the fourth power, along with other terms with lower exponents. For example, f(x) = 3x^4 – 2x^2 + x – 1 is a bi-quadratic polynomial. The highest exponent is 4, so the degree of this polynomial is 4.

## How to Find the Degree of a Polynomial?

Finding the degree of a polynomial is a straightforward process. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Write the polynomial in standard form, with the terms arranged in descending order of their exponents.

Step 2: Identify the term with the highest exponent.

Step 3: The highest exponent of the variable in that term is the degree of the polynomial.

Let’s illustrate this process with an example:

Example: Find the degree of the polynomial f(x) = 2x^3 – 4x^2 + 5x + 1.

Step 1: The polynomial is already in standard form.

Step 2: The term with the highest exponent is 2x^3.

Step 3: The highest exponent of the variable in that term is 3.

Therefore, the degree of the polynomial f(x) = 2x^3 – 4x^2 + 5x + 1 is 3.

## Classification Based on Degree of Polynomial

Polynomials can be classified based on their degree. Here is a table that categorizes polynomials based on their degree and provides examples of each type:

Let’s examine each type in more detail:

### Constant/Zero Polynomial

A constant polynomial is a polynomial of degree zero. It consists of a single constant term with no variables. For example, f(x) = 3 is a constant polynomial. The degree of a constant polynomial is zero.

### Linear Polynomial

A linear polynomial is a polynomial of degree 1. It consists of a single term with the variable raised to the first power. For example, f(x) = 2x – 1 is a linear polynomial. The highest exponent is 1, so the degree of this polynomial is 1.

A quadratic polynomial is a polynomial of degree 2. It consists of a term with the variable raised to the second power, along with other terms with lower exponents. For example, f(x) = x^2 + 3x + 2 is a quadratic polynomial. The highest exponent is 2, so the degree of this polynomial is 2.

### Cubic Polynomial

A cubic polynomial is a polynomial of degree 3. It consists of a term with the variable raised to the third power, along with other terms with lower exponents. For example, f(x) = 4x^3 – 2x^2 + x – 3 is a cubic polynomial. The highest exponent is 3, so the degree of this polynomial is 3.

A bi-quadratic polynomial is a polynomial of degree 4. It consists of a term with the variable raised to the fourth power, along with other terms with lower exponents. For example, f(x) = 3x^4 – 2x^2 + x – 5 is a bi-quadratic polynomial. The highest exponent is 4, so the degree of this polynomial is 4.

## Degree of a Polynomial Applications

Understanding the degree of a polynomial is crucial in various mathematical applications. Here are a few examples of how the degree of a polynomial is used:

1. Determining the number of solutions: The degree of a polynomial provides information about the number of solutions it has. For example, a quadratic polynomial can have at most two solutions, while a cubic polynomial can have up to three solutions.
2. Graphing polynomials: The degree of a polynomial helps in sketching its graph. Higher-degree polynomials tend to have more complex graphs with multiple turning points and behavior.
3. Solving equations: The degree of a polynomial helps in determining the number of solutions to polynomial equations. It provides a starting point for solving equations by factoring or using other algebraic techniques.
4. Identifying patterns and properties: The degree of a polynomial is closely related to its algebraic properties. For example, the leading coefficient and degree of a polynomial determine its end behavior and whether it has a positive or negative leading term.

## Behavior under Polynomial Operations

Polynomials exhibit specific properties when subjected to various operations such as addition, multiplication, and composition.

When adding polynomials, the degree of the resulting polynomial is determined by the highest degree among the added polynomials. For example, if we add a quadratic polynomial to a cubic polynomial, the resulting polynomial will have a degree of either 2 or 3, depending on the specific terms.

### Multiplication

When multiplying polynomials, the degree of the resulting polynomial is the sum of the degrees of the multiplied polynomials. For example, if we multiply a quadratic polynomial by a linear polynomial, the resulting polynomial will have a degree of either 2 + 1 = 3 or 2 + 0 = 2, depending on the specific terms.

### Composition

When composing polynomials, the degree of the resulting polynomial is the product of the degrees of the composed polynomials. For example, if we compose a quadratic polynomial with a cubic polynomial, the resulting polynomial will have a degree of 2 * 3 = 6.

## Solved Examples on Degree of Polynomial

Now, let’s solve a few examples to solidify our understanding of the degree of a polynomial.

Example 1: Find the degree of the polynomial f(x) = x^4 + 3x^3 – 2x^2 + 5x – 1.

Solution: The term with the highest exponent is x^4. Therefore, the degree of the polynomial is 4.

Example 2: Find the degree of the polynomial f(x) = 2x^2 + 4x – 7.

Solution: The term with the highest exponent is x^2. Therefore, the degree of the polynomial is 2.

Example 3: Find the degree of the polynomial f(x, y) = 5x^3y^2 + 2x^2y^3 – 3xy^4.

Solution: The sum of exponents in the first term is 3 + 2 = 5, and in the second term, it is 2 + 3 = 5. Therefore, the degree of this polynomial is 5.

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