Dividing Polynomials – Synthetic Division, Definition With Examples
10 minutes read
Created: December 17, 2023
Last updated: January 11, 2024
Welcome to another enlightening journey into the beautiful world of mathematics with Brighterly. Today, we dive deep into an essential concept in algebra and calculus: the division of polynomials through synthetic division. This oftenoverlooked tool in the mathematical arsenal offers a simplified alternative to the traditional long division method when dealing with polynomials.
As we embark on this intellectual voyage, we’ll uncover the definitions of polynomials and synthetic division, their properties, differences, and stepbystep processes for performing synthetic division. By mastering this method, you will arm yourself with an efficient tool that simplifies polynomial division, saves time, and enhances understanding, especially when working with larger polynomial problems. So, let’s open the door to this exciting realm of mathematics together.
What Is Dividing Polynomials through Synthetic Division?
The process of dividing polynomials through synthetic division involves a simplified method to divide a polynomial by another polynomial of degree 1 or 2, typically in the form of (x – a). Instead of employing the long, often tedious process of polynomial long division, synthetic division offers a quicker, more streamlined approach. It follows a specific set of rules to produce the same results in a fraction of the time, making it an invaluable tool for anyone wanting to save time and effort in polynomial division, especially in larger problems.
Definition of Polynomials
Polynomials are algebraic expressions comprising several terms. These terms consist of variables, coefficients, and exponents. The degree of a polynomial is determined by the highest power of the variable in the expression. For example, in the polynomial 5x^3 + 3x^2 – 2x + 1, the degree is 3 because the highest power of x is 3. This concept is fundamental in many areas of mathematics, including algebra and calculus.
Definition of Synthetic Division
Synthetic division is a shorthand method of dividing a polynomial by a binomial of the form x – a. The primary advantage of synthetic division is its simplicity and speed compared to long division. It’s essentially an organized way of performing substitution and simplification to achieve the same result as polynomial long division.
Properties of Polynomials and Synthetic Division
Properties of Polynomials
Polynomials have several essential properties. They are smooth and continuous, meaning there are no abrupt changes or breaks in the graph of a polynomial function. The degree of a polynomial function determines the maximum number of roots and the maximum number of turning points on its graph. The coefficients of the polynomial can affect the shape and position of the graph but do not alter the polynomial’s degree.
Properties of Synthetic Division
Like polynomials, synthetic division also follows certain properties. It is a division algorithm that provides a quick and efficient way to divide polynomials. It only works for dividing a polynomial by a linear factor in the form x – a. Synthetic division simplifies the division process and makes it easier to understand the division’s outcomes.
Difference Between Polynomials and Synthetic Division
The primary difference between polynomials and synthetic division lies in their purpose. While a polynomial is a mathematical expression, synthetic division is a method used to divide a polynomial by another polynomial. Polynomials consist of variables, coefficients, and exponents, while synthetic division is a process that uses these components to simplify the division of polynomials.
Steps for Dividing Polynomials through Synthetic Division
Writing Steps for Dividing Polynomials
Dividing polynomials typically involves a lengthy process of long division. However, synthetic division simplifies this process into a series of easier steps:
 Write down the coefficients of the polynomial you want to divide (dividend).
 Write down the root related to the divisor (the number ‘a’ in x – a).
 Perform synthetic division operations.
Writing Steps for Synthetic Division
The steps for synthetic division are as follows:
 Write down the root related to the divisor (the number ‘a’ in x – a) on the outside.
 Write down the coefficients of the polynomial you want to divide (dividend) in order, starting from the highest degree.
 Bring down the leading coefficient to the bottom row.
 Multiply the value you brought down by the root, then write this product under the next coefficient and add the two numbers.
 Repeat the above step until you reach the end.
 The final row of numbers represents the coefficients of the quotient, and the last number is the remainder.
Practice Problems on Dividing Polynomials using Synthetic Division
To solidify your understanding of dividing polynomials through synthetic division, we have prepared a range of practice problems for you. These examples will allow you to apply the concepts and methods discussed in this article and develop your proficiency in synthetic division. Let’s dive in:

Problem 1: Divide the polynomial 3x^3 – 2x^2 + 5x – 1 by x – 2 using synthetic division.
Solution:
We begin by writing down the coefficients of the dividend: 3, 2, 5, 1. Then, we write the root of the divisor (x – 2) on the outside: 2. Applying synthetic division, we perform the following steps.
The final row represents the coefficients of the quotient, and the last number, 11, is the remainder. Therefore, the quotient is 3x^2 + 4x + 13, and the remainder is 11.

Problem 2: Divide the polynomial 2x^4 – 7x^3 + 3x^2 + 5x + 1 by x + 1 using synthetic division.
Solution:
We gather the coefficients of the dividend: 2, 7, 3, 5, 1. Then, we consider the root of the divisor (x + 1) and set it as 1 on the outside. Applying synthetic division, we carry out the following steps.
The last row presents the coefficients of the quotient, with 2x^3 – 9x^2 + 12x – 7. The remainder is 8.

Problem 3: Divide the polynomial 4x^5 – 3x^4 + 2x^3 – 5x^2 + 7x – 2 by x^2 – 3x + 2 using synthetic division.
Solution:
We collect the coefficients of the dividend: 4, 3, 2, 5, 7, 2. The root of the divisor (x^2 – 3x + 2) is considered, and we set it as 2 on the outside. Applying synthetic division, we proceed with the following steps.
The final row represents the coefficients of the quotient, resulting in 4x^3 + 5x^2 – x + 3. The remainder is 4x – 8.
These practice problems offer a glimpse into the application of synthetic division for dividing polynomials. Remember to check your solutions and compare them with the provided answers. Consistent practice will sharpen your skills and increase your confidence in handling polynomial division.
Conclusion
As we reach the end of our mathematical exploration with Brighterly, we hope that you have gained a deeper understanding of dividing polynomials through synthetic division. This process, although seemingly complex at first glance, can simplify your mathematical journey significantly once mastered. It is just another testament to the beauty of mathematics, where even the most complex problems can be tackled by applying simpler, more efficient techniques.
Remember, the key to grasping these concepts lies in practice. Make use of the practice problems available on our website and keep exploring. At Brighterly, our goal is to illuminate the path of learning for you, making complex mathematical concepts accessible and understandable. Happy learning!
Frequently Asked Questions on Dividing Polynomials and Synthetic Division
What is a Polynomial?
A polynomial is an algebraic expression that includes variables (also known as indeterminates), coefficients, and exponents. The terms in a polynomial are either added or subtracted. For example, the expression 4x^3 + 2x^2 – 7x + 9 is a polynomial.
What is Synthetic Division?
Synthetic division is a simplified method for dividing a polynomial by another polynomial of degree 1 or 2, usually in the form (x – a). It’s a quicker, more streamlined approach to polynomial division, especially beneficial for larger problems.
Why Use Synthetic Division?
The primary reason to use synthetic division is its simplicity and efficiency. It provides the same results as long division, but with less effort, making it particularly useful for problems involving higherdegree polynomials.
Can Synthetic Division be Used for All Polynomials?
While synthetic division is an excellent tool, it has its limitations. It’s only applicable when dividing a polynomial by a linear divisor of the form x – a or a quadratic divisor in the form of ax^2 + bx + c, where ‘a’ is not equal to zero.
What Happens If The Remainder Is Not Zero In Synthetic Division?
If the remainder is not zero in synthetic division, it means that the divisor does not evenly divide the dividend. The remainder is then expressed as a fraction over the divisor to form a more accurate quotient.
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