A **polynomial in one variable** is a sum or difference of terms of the form $ax^n$, where $a$ is a real number and $n$ is a nonnegative integer.

**degree of a term**in a polynomial is the exponent of the variable. For example, the term $5x^3$ has degree 3. A constant term has degree zero. A variable with no exponent has degree 1. When written in standard form, where $a_n\neq 0$, the terms of a polynomial decrease in degree as they are written from left to right:

**degree of a polynomial**is the greatest degree of a term in the polynomial. In standard form, the degree of the polynomial is the degree of the first term. The

**leading coefficient**is the number multiplied by the variable in a polynomial written in standard form, which places the term with the greatest degree first. A

**polynomial function**is any function whose rule is a polynomial in one variable. An example of a polynomial function of degree 3 with a leading coefficient of 2 is:

- A constant function is a polynomial function of degree zero, such as $f(x)=2$.
- A linear function is a polynomial function of degree 1, such as $f(x)=-3x+2$.
- A quadratic function is a polynomial function of degree 2, such as $f(x)=x^2-3x+2$.
- A
**cubic function**is a polynomial function of degree 3, such as $f(x)=4x^3+x^2-3x+2$.

### Even and Odd Polynomial Functions

Polynomial functions can be even, odd, or neither. The graph of an **even function** is symmetric with respect to the $y$-axis, and the graph of an **odd function** is symmetric with respect to the origin.

For a polynomial function, if all the terms have even degrees, the function is even. A constant term has a degree of zero, which is even. If all the terms have odd degrees, the function is odd. If there are terms with both even and odd degrees, the function is neither even nor odd. For example:

- The function $f(x)=3x^4-x^2+7$ has terms of degree 4, 2, and zero, so the function is even.
- The function $f(x)=2x^5+5x$ has terms of degree 5 and 1, so the function is odd.
- The function $f(x)=x^4-3x^2+6x-4$ has terms of degree 4, 2, 1, and zero, so the function is neither even nor odd.

Knowing that a function is even or odd can help in graphing the function. For a function that is even, if the point $(x,y)$ is on the graph, then the point $(-x,y)$ is also on the graph. For a function that is odd, if the point $(x,y)$ is on the graph, then the point $(-x,-y)$ is also on the graph. Therefore, it is only necessary to locate points for positive values of $x$, and the points with negative values of $x$ can be found using symmetry.

Note that a polynomial function can have an even degree and not be an even function or can have an odd degree and not be an odd function. For example, a polynomial has a degree 4, which is even, but the function is neither even nor odd:### End Behavior of Polynomials

**end behavior**of a function describes how the values of a function change as the input values approach positive or negative infinity. The sign of the leading coefficient and the degree of the polynomial determine the end behavior of the polynomial. For example, in a polynomial where $a_n\neq 0$:

- When $n$ is even and $a_n>0$, the graph approaches $\infty$ as $x$ approaches both $\infty$ and $-\infty$.
- When $n$ is even and $a_n<0$, the graph approaches $-\infty$ as $x$ approaches both $\infty$ and $-\infty$.
- When $n$ is odd and $a_n>0$, the graph approaches $-\infty$ as $x$ approaches $-\infty$ and approaches $\infty$ as $x$ approaches $\infty$.
- When $n$ is odd and $a_n<0$, the graph approaches $\infty$ as $x$ approaches $-\infty$ and approaches $-\infty$ as $x$ approaches $\infty$.

### Extrema of Polynomial Functions

A **turning point** of a graph is a point where the graph changes from increasing to decreasing or from decreasing to increasing.

- If the graph changes from increasing to decreasing ($\nearrow\ \searrow$), the turning point is a
**local maximum**. - If the graph changes from decreasing to increasing ($\searrow\ \nearrow$), the turning point is a
**local minimum**. - The point where the value of a function is greatest is the
**global maximum**. The**maximum value**of a function is the greatest value in the range. - The point where the value is least is the
**global minimum**. The**minimum value**of a function is the least value in the range. - If the range of a function extends to infinity, it may not necessarily have a global maximum or global minimum.

Use the trace feature of a graphing utility to estimate turning points.

- local maximum: $(-1.97,26.18)$
- local minimum: $(-0.89,-4.33)$
- local maximum: $(0.89,8.33)$
- local minimum: $(1.97,-22.18)$

### Writing a Polynomial Function from a Graph

**zero of a function**is a value of $x$ that makes the value of the function zero. Each zero of a function $f(x)$ corresponds to an $x$-intercept of the graph of the function, which is a value of $x$ where the graph intersects or touches the $x$-axis. These $x$-values are also solutions, or roots, of the related equation:

**multiplicity**of the zero $x=c$ is the number of times that the factor appears, or the exponent of the factor. For example:

Use the end behavior to determine whether the degree is odd or even.

As $x$ approaches $-\infty$, $f(x)$ approaches $\infty$.

As $x$ approaches $\infty$, $f(x)$ approaches $\infty$.

The end behavior is the same as $x$ approaches both negative and positive infinity. So, the degree is even.

The function increases as $x$ approaches positive infinity. So the leading coefficient is positive $(a>0)$.

Identify turning points.

There are 3 turning points, which indicates that the degree of the polynomial is at least 4 $(n\ge4)$.

Identify zeros, and write factors of the polynomial.

The $x$-intercepts of the graph give the zeros of the function: –1, 1, 2.

Use the zeros to write linear factors of the function rule.

The factors are:Identify the multiplicity of each zero.

Around the zeros at $x=-1$ and $x=1$, the graph looks like a linear function. The zeros have multiplicity 1.

Around the zero at $x=2$, the graph looks like a quadratic function. The zero has multiplicity 2. The factor that corresponds to the zero is squared.

The function rule includes the expression:Use the $y$-intercept to find the leading coefficient, $a$.

The $y$-intercept is –4. Substitute the coordinates of the $y$-intercept into the equation.### Solving Polynomial Equations by Graphing

The trace feature of a graphing utility can also be used to estimate the $x$-intercepts.