10.1: Add and Subtract Polynomials
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Learning Objectives
 Identify polynomials, monomials, binomials, and trinomials
 Determine the degree of polynomials
 Add and subtract monomials
 Add and subtract polynomials
 Evaluate a polynomial for a given value
be prepared!
Before you get started, take this readiness quiz.
 Simplify: 8x + 3x. If you missed this problem, review Example 2.3.10.
 Subtract: (5n + 8) − (2n − 1). If you missed this problem, review Example 7.4.13.
 Evaluate: 4y^{2} when y = 5 If you missed this problem, review Example 2.3.6.
Identify Polynomials, Monomials, Binomials, and Trinomials
In Evaluate, Simplify, and Translate Expressions, you learned that a term is a constant or the product of a constant and one or more variables. When it is of the form ax^{m}, where a is a constant and m is a whole number, it is called a monomial. A monomial, or a sum and/or difference of monomials, is called a polynomial.
Definition: Polynomials
polynomial — A monomial, or two or more monomials, combined by addition or subtraction
monomial — A polynomial with exactly one term
binomial — A polynomial with exactly two terms
trinomial — A polynomial with exactly three terms
Notice the roots:
 poly means many
 mono means one
 bi means two
 tri means three
Here are some examples of polynomials:
Polynomial  b + 1  4y^{2} − 7y + 2  5x^{5} − 4x^{4} + x^{3} + 8x^{2} − 9x + 1 

Monomial  5  4b^{2}  9x^{3} 
Binomial  3a  7  y^{2}  9  17x^{3} + 14x^{2} 
Trinomial  x^{2}  5x + 6  4y^{2}  7y + 2  5a^{4}  3a^{3} + a 
Notice that every monomial, binomial, and trinomial is also a polynomial. They are special members of the family of polynomials and so they have special names. We use the words ‘monomial’, ‘binomial’, and ‘trinomial’ when referring to these special polynomials and just call all the rest ‘polynomials’.
Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):
Determine whether each polynomial is a monomial, binomial, trinomial, or other polynomial: (a) 8x^{2} − 7x − 9 (b) −5a^{4} (c) x^{4} − 7x^{3} − 6x^{2} + 5x + 2 (d) 11 − 4y^{3} (e) n
Solution
Polynomial  Number of terms  Type 

(a) 8x^{2} − 7x − 9  3  Trinomial 
(b) −5a^{4}  1  Monomial 
(c) x^{4} − 7x^{3} − 6x^{2} + 5x + 2  5  Polynomial 
(d) 11 − 4y^{3}  2  Binomial 
(e) n  1  Monomial 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\):
Determine whether each polynomial is a monomial, binomial, trinomial, or other polynomial. (a) z (b) 2x^{3} − 4x^{2} − x − 8 (c) 6x^{2} − 4x + 1 (d) 9 − 4y^{2} (e) 3x^{7}
 Answer a

monomial
 Answer b

polynomial
 Answer c

trinomial
 Answer d

binomial
 Answer e

monomial
Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\):
Determine whether each polynomial is a monomial, binomial, trinomial, or other polynomial. (a) y^{3} − 8 (b) 9x^{3} − 5x^{2} − x (c) x^{4} − 3x^{2} − 4x − 7 (d) −y^{4} (e) w
 Answer a

binomial
 Answer b

trinomial
 Answer c

polynomial
 Answer d

monomial
 Answer e

monomial
Determine the Degree of Polynomials
In this section, we will work with polynomials that have only one variable in each term. The degree of a polynomial and the degree of its terms are determined by the exponents of the variable.
A monomial that has no variable, just a constant, is a special case. The degree of a constant is 0 —it has no variable.
Definition: Degree of a Polynomial
The degree of a term is the exponent of its variable.
The degree of a constant is 0.
The degree of a polynomial is the highest degree of all its terms.
Let's see how this works by looking at several polynomials. We'll take it step by step, starting with monomials, and then progressing to polynomials with more terms.
Remember: Any base written without an exponent has an implied exponent of 1.
Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):
Find the degree of the following polynomials: (a) 4x (b) 3x^{3} − 5x + 7 (c) −11 (d) −6x^{2} + 9x − 3 (e) 8x + 2
Solution
(a) 4x
The exponent of x is one. x = x^{1}  The degree is 1. 
(b) 3x^{3} − 5x + 7
The highest degree of all the terms is 3.  The degree is 3. 
(c) −11
The degree of a constant is 0.  The degree is 0. 
(d) −6x^{2} + 9x − 3
The highest degree of all the terms is 2.  The degree is 2. 
(e) 8x + 2
The highest degree of all the terms is 1.  The degree is 1. 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{3}\):
Find the degree of the following polynomials: (a) −6y (b) 4x − 1 (c) 3x^{4} + 4x^{2} − 8 (d) 2y^{2} + 3y + 9 (e) −18
 Answer a

1
 Answer b

1
 Answer c

4
 Answer d

2
 Answer e

0
Exercise \(\PageIndex{4}\):
Find the degree of the following polynomials: (a) 47 (b) 2x^{2} − 8x + 2 (c) x^{4} − 16 (d) y^{5} − 5y^{3} + y (e) 9a^{3}
 Answer a

0
 Answer b

2
 Answer c

4
 Answer d

5
 Answer e

3
Working with polynomials is easier when you list the terms in descending order of degrees. When a polynomial is written this way, it is said to be in standard form. Look back at the polynomials in Example 10.2. Notice that they are all written in standard form. Get in the habit of writing the term with the highest degree first.
Add and Subtract Monomials
In The Language of Algebra, you simplified expressions by combining like terms. Adding and subtracting monomials is the same as combining like terms. Like terms must have the same variable with the same exponent. Recall that when combining like terms only the coefficients are combined, never the exponents.
Example \(\PageIndex{3}\):
Add: 17x^{2} + 6x^{2}.
Solution
Combine like terms.  23x^{2} 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{5}\):
Add: 12x^{2} + 5x^{2}.
 Answer

17x^{2}
Exercise \(\PageIndex{6}\):
Add: −11y^{2 }+ 8y^{2}.
 Answer

3y^{2}
Example \(\PageIndex{4}\):
Subtract: 11n − (−8n).
Solution
Combine like terms.  19n 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{7}\):
Subtract: 9n − (−5n).
 Answer

14n
Exercise \(\PageIndex{8}\):
Subtract: −7a^{3} − (−5a^{3}).
 Answer

2a^{3}
Example \(\PageIndex{5}\):
Simplify: a^{2} + 4b^{2} − 7a^{2}.
Solution
Combine like terms.  −6a^{2} + 4b^{2} 
Remember, −6a^{2} and 4b^{2} are not like terms. The variables are not the same.
Exercise \(\PageIndex{9}\):
Add: 3x^{2} + 3y^{2} − 5x^{2}.
 Answer

2x^{2} + 3y^{2}
Exercise \(\PageIndex{10}\):
Add: 2a^{2} + b^{2} − 4a^{2}.
 Answer

2a^{2} + b^{2}
Add and Subtract Polynomials
Adding and subtracting polynomials can be thought of as just adding and subtracting like terms. Look for like terms—those with the same variables with the same exponent. The Commutative Property allows us to rearrange the terms to put like terms together. It may also be helpful to underline, circle, or box like terms.
Example \(\PageIndex{6}\):
Find the sum: (4x^{2} − 5x + 1) + (3x^{2} − 8x − 9)
Solution
Identify like terms.  
Rearrange to get the like terms together.  
Combine like terms. 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{11}\):
Find the sum: (3x^{2} − 2x + 8) + (x^{2} − 6x + 2).
 Answer

4x^{2}  8x + 10
Exercise \(\PageIndex{12}\):
Find the sum: (7y^{2} + 4y − 6) + (4y^{2} + 5y + 1)
 Answer

11y^{2} + 9y  5
Parentheses are grouping symbols. When we add polynomials as we did in Example 10.6, we can rewrite the expression without parentheses and then combine like terms. But when we subtract polynomials, we must be very careful with the signs.
Example \(\PageIndex{7}\):
Find the difference: (7u^{2} − 5u + 3) − (4u^{2} − 2).
Solution
Distribute and identify like terms.  
Rearrange the terms.  
Combine like terms. 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{13}\):
Find the difference: (6y^{2} + 3y − 1) − (3y^{2} − 4).
 Answer

3y^{2} + 3y + 3
Exercise \(\PageIndex{14}\):
Find the difference: (8u^{2} − 7u − 2) − (5u^{2} − 6u − 4).
 Answer

3u^{2}  u + 2
Example \(\PageIndex{8}\):
Subtract: (m^{2} − 3m + 8) from (9m^{2} − 7m + 4).
Solution
Distribute and identify like terms.  
Rearrange the terms.  
Combine like terms. 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{15}\):
Subtract: (4n^{2} − 7n − 3) from (8n^{2} + 5n − 3).
 Answer

4n^{2} + 12n
Exercise \(\PageIndex{16}\):
Subtract: (a^{2} − 4a − 9) from (6a^{2} + 4a − 1).
 Answer

5a^{2} + 8a + 8
Evaluate a Polynomial for a Given Value
In The Language of Algebra we evaluated expressions. Since polynomials are expressions, we'll follow the same procedures to evaluate polynomials—substitute the given value for the variable into the polynomial, and then simplify.
Example \(\PageIndex{9}\):
Evaluate 3x 2 − 9x + 7 when (a) x = 3 (b) x = −1
Solution
(a) x = 3
Substitute 3 for x.  3(3)^{2} − 9(3) + 7 
Simplify the expression with the exponent.  3 • 9 − 9(3) + 7 
Multiply.  27 − 27 + 7 
Simplify.  7 
(b) x = −1
Substitute 1 for x.  3(1)^{2} − 9(1) + 7 
Simplify the expression with the exponent.  3 • 1 − 9(1) + 7 
Multiply.  3 + 9 + 7 
Simplify.  19 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{17}\):
Evaluate: 2x^{2} + 4x − 3 when (a) x = 2 (b) x = −3
 Answer a

13
 Answer b

3
Exercise \(\PageIndex{18}\):
Evaluate: 7y^{2} − y − 2 when (a) y = −4 (b) y = 0
 Answer a

114
 Answer b

2
Example \(\PageIndex{10}\):
The polynomial −16t 2 + 300 gives the height of an object t seconds after it is dropped from a 300 foot tall bridge. Find the height after t = 3 seconds.
Solution
Substitute 3 for t.  16(3)^{2} + 300 
Simplify the expression with the exponent.  16 • 9 + 300 
Multiply.  144 + 300 
Simplify.  156 
Exercise \(\PageIndex{19}\):
The polynomial −8t^{2} + 24t + 4 gives the height, in feet, of a ball t seconds after it is tossed into the air, from an initial height of 4 feet. Find the height after t = 3 seconds.
 Answer

4 feet
Exercise \(\PageIndex{20}\):
The polynomial −8t^{2} + 24t + 4 gives the height, in feet, of a ball x seconds after it is tossed into the air, from an initial height of 4 feet. Find the height after t = 2 seconds.
 Answer

20 feet
Practice Makes Perfect
Identify Polynomials, Monomials, Binomials and Trinomials
In the following exercises, determine if each of the polynomials is a monomial, binomial, trinomial, or other polynomial.
 5x + 2
 z^{2} − 5z − 6
 a^{2} + 9a + 18
 −12p^{4}
 y^{3} − 8y^{2} + 2y − 16
 10 − 9x
 23y^{2}
 m^{4} + 4m^{3} + 6m^{2} + 4m + 1
Determine the Degree of Polynomials
In the following exercises, determine the degree of each polynomial.
 8a^{5} − 2a^{3} + 1
 5c^{3} + 11c^{2} − c − 8
 3x − 12
 4y + 17
 −13
 −22
Add and Subtract Monomials
In the following exercises, add or subtract the monomials.
 6x^{2} + 9x^{2}
 4y^{3} + 6y^{3}
 −12u + 4u
 −3m + 9m
 5a + 7b
 8y + 6z
 Add: 4a, − 3b, − 8a
 Add: 4x, 3y, − 3x
 18x − 2x
 13a − 3a
 Subtract 5x^{6} from − 12x^{6}
 Subtract 2p^{4} from − 7p^{4}
Add and Subtract Polynomials
In the following exercises, add or subtract the polynomials.
 (4y^{2} + 10y + 3) + (8y^{2} − 6y + 5)
 (7x^{2} − 9x + 2) + (6x^{2} − 4x + 3)
 (x^{2} + 6x + 8) + (−4x^{2} + 11x − 9)
 (y^{2} + 9y + 4) + (−2y^{2} − 5y − 1)
 (3a^{2} + 7) + (a^{2} − 7a − 18)
 (p^{2} − 5p − 11) + (3p^{2} + 9)
 (6m^{2} − 9m − 3) − (2m^{2} + m − 5)
 (3n^{2} − 4n + 1) − (4n^{2} − n − 2)
 (z^{2} + 8z + 9) − (z^{2} − 3z + 1)
 (z^{2} − 7z + 5) − (z^{2} − 8z + 6)
 (12s^{2} − 15s) − (s − 9)
 (10r^{2} − 20r) − (r − 8)
 Find the sum of (2p^{3} − 8) and (p^{2} + 9p + 18)
 Find the sum of (q^{2} + 4q + 13) and (7q^{3} − 3)
 Subtract (7x^{2} − 4x + 2) from (8x^{2} − x + 6)
 Subtract (5x^{2} − x + 12) from (9x^{2} − 6x − 20)
 Find the difference of (w^{2} + w − 42) and (w^{2} − 10w + 24)
 Find the difference of (z^{2} − 3z − 18) and (z^{2} + 5z − 20)
Evaluate a Polynomial for a Given Value
In the following exercises, evaluate each polynomial for the given value.
 Evaluate 8y^{2} − 3y + 2
 y = 5
 y = −2
 y = 0
 Evaluate 5y^{2} − y − 7 when:
 y = −4
 y = 1
 y = 0
 Evaluate 4 − 36x when:
 x = 3
 x = 0
 x = −1
 Evaluate 16 − 36x^{2} when:
 x = −1
 x = 0
 x = 2
 A window washer drops a squeegee from a platform 275 feet high. The polynomial −16t^{2} + 275 gives the height of the squeegee t seconds after it was dropped. Find the height after t = 4 seconds.
 A manufacturer of microwave ovens has found that the revenue received from selling microwaves at a cost of p dollars each is given by the polynomial −5p^{2} + 350p. Find the revenue received when p = 50 dollars.
Everyday Math
 Fuel Efficiency The fuel efficiency (in miles per gallon) of a bus going at a speed of x miles per hour is given by the polynomial \(− \dfrac{1}{160} x^{2} + \dfrac{1}{2} x\). Find the fuel efficiency when x = 40 mph.
 Stopping Distance The number of feet it takes for a car traveling at x miles per hour to stop on dry, level concrete is given by the polynomial 0.06x^{2} + 1.1x. Find the stopping distance when x = 60 mph.
Writing Exercises
 Using your own words, explain the difference between a monomial, a binomial, and a trinomial.
 Eloise thinks the sum 5x^{2} + 3x^{4} is 8x^{6}. What is wrong with her reasoning?
Self Check
(a) After completing the exercises, use this checklist to evaluate your mastery of the objectives of this section.
(b) If most of your checks were:
…confidently. Congratulations! You have achieved the objectives in this section. Reflect on the study skills you used so that you can continue to use them. What did you do to become confident of your ability to do these things? Be specific.
…with some help. This must be addressed quickly because topics you do not master become potholes in your road to success. In math, every topic builds upon previous work. It is important to make sure you have a strong foundation before you move on.
Who can you ask for help? Your fellow classmates and instructor are good resources. Is there a place on campus where math tutors are available? Can your study skills be improved?
…no—I don’t get it! This is a warning sign and you must not ignore it. You should get help right away or you will quickly be overwhelmed. See your instructor as soon as you can to discuss your situation. Together you can come up with a plan to get you the help you need.
Contributors and Attributions
Lynn Marecek (Santa Ana College) and MaryAnne AnthonySmith (Formerly of Santa Ana College). This content is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution License v4.0 "Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/fd53eae1fa2...49835c3c@5.191."