(Question) What is the (conventional) formula for coefficients of interpolation polynomial?

Consider the interpolation problem: find the polynomial through a given set of points $(x_0,y_0),...,(x_n,y_n)$. Suppose we want the polynomial in canonical form (monomial basis): coefficients times powers of $x$.

Is there a standard solution to this problem? What would be the formula for the coefficients and how is it obtained?

Note: I found my own solutions for this problem, but I would like to know the ‘standard’ solution. Maybe it involves some Linear Algebra that I am not aware of yet.


Here is a general way to obtain it. Your unique polynomial will have to be of degree at most $n$, so assume we have $$p(x) = a_0 + a_1x + +\ldots + a_nx^n = \sum_{k=1}^n a_k x^k.$$

Then, plugging in your points, you get the equations $$ y_i = \sum_{k=1}^n a_k x_i^k, \quad \forall i \in [n]. $$ This is a linear system of $n+1$ equations in $n+1$ unknowns, guaranteed to be invertible due to the nature of the system. Hence, there is a unique solution, which you can find by Gaussian Elimination, for example.


Perhaps an example will help. Consider finding the unique linear polynomial through the points $(0,0)$ and $(1,1)$. We assume the form $p(x) = a_0 + a_1x$ which leads to the equations $$ \begin{split} 0 = a_0 + a_1 \cdot 0\\ 1 = a_0 + a_1 \cdot 1 \end{split} $$ and the first equation simplifies to $a_0=0$, plugging into the second yields $a_1=1$, so we have $$p(x) = 0 + 1 \cdot x = x,$$ which is, of course, the unique line through $(0,0)$ and $(1,1)$, as expected.

  • $\begingroup$ How would you define $a_k$ specifically? $\endgroup$ – Max Feb 11 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Max you are not defining $a_k$, they are variables for which you are solving $\endgroup$ – gt6989b Feb 11 at 16:29
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, instead of define, I meant how do you get $a_k$ directly (so a formula for $a_k$). $\endgroup$ – Max Feb 11 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Max see update for an example. One can use something like Cramer's Rule if you insist on calculating coefficients directly via a formula instead of a general algorithmic procedure. $\endgroup$ – gt6989b Feb 11 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ I would like the formula for $a_k$ in closed form. As used in the link. $\endgroup$ – Max Feb 11 at 16:38

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