This tag is used for both basic and advanced questions on polynomials in any number of variables. Including, but not limited to: solving for roots, factoring, checking for irreducibility. This tag is rarely used as the only tag for a question.

Usually polynomials are introduced as expressions like $15x^3 - 14x^2 + 8$. Here, the numbers are called coefficients and the $x$'s are the variables or indeterminates of the polynomial. In general the coefficients may be taken from any ring $R$ and any finite number of variables is allowed. The set of all polynomials in $n$ variables $X_1, \ldots ,X_n$ over a ring $R$ is denoted by $R[X_1,\ldots,X_n]$. Strictly speaking this is a formal sum, because the variables do not represent any value. Nevertheless, the variables of a polynomial obey the usual airithmetic laws in a ring (like commutativity and distributivity). This makes $R[X_1,\ldots,X_n]$ a ring itself. One should note that $R[X_1][X_2]=R[X_1,X_2]$. This idea can be extended to $R[X_1,\ldots,X_n]$ in a very natural way.

An expression of the form $rX_1^{i_1}X_2^{i_2}\cdots X_n^{i_n}$ ($r\in R$) is called a term (of the polynomial). Polynomials are defined to have only finitely many terms. An expression with infynitely many different terms is generally not considered to be a polynomial, but a (formal) power series in one or more variables.

When $P\in R[X]$, $P(x)$ is the evaluation of $P$ at $x$ (pronounced $P$ of $x$, or simply $Px$). Here $x$ does not necessarily have to be an element of $R$. For $P(x)$ to be properly defined for an $x$ in some ring $S$ we need:

  • a homomorphism $\phi:R\to S$
  • the image of all coefficients of $P$ under $\phi$ should commute with $x$.

Evaluation is now simply performed by replacing all coefficients $r_i$ of $P$ by $\phi(r_i)$ and all appearances of $X$ by $x$. This quite naturally gives an expression that is well defined as an element of $S$. The concept of evaluation is naturally extended to $R[X_1,\ldots,X_n]$.

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