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12.3: Division of Polynomials

Difficulty Level: Basic Created by: CK-12
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Suppose that you know that the area of a rectangular mural in square feet is represented by the polynomial \begin{align*}x^2+2x-24\end{align*} and that the length of the mural in feet is represented by the binomial \begin{align*}x+6\end{align*}. How would you calculate the width of the mural? Would it also be a binomial? In this Concept, you'll learn about dividing polynomials so that you can perform division problems like the one necessary here.

Watch This

Multimedia Link: For more help with using long division to simplify rational expressions, visit this http://www.purplemath.com/modules/polydiv2.htm - website or watch this: CK-12 Basic Algebra: 6 7 Polynomial long division with Mr. Nystrom

- YouTube video.


We will begin with a property that is the converse of the Adding Fractions Property presented in previous Concepts.

For all real numbers \begin{align*}a, b\end{align*}, and \begin{align*}c\end{align*}, and \begin{align*}c \neq 0\end{align*}, \begin{align*}\frac{a+b}{c}\end{align*} = \begin{align*}\frac{a}{c}+\frac{b}{c}\end{align*}.

This property allows you to separate the numerator into its individual fractions. This property is used when dividing a polynomial by a monomial.

Example A

Simplify \begin{align*}\frac{8x^2-4x+16}{2}\end{align*}.


Using the property above, separate the polynomial into its individual fractions.

\begin{align*}&& \frac{8x^2}{2}-\frac{4x}{2}+\frac{16}{2}\\ \text{Reduce.} && 4x^2-2x+8\end{align*}

Example B

Simplify \begin{align*}\frac{-3m^2-18m+6}{9m}\end{align*}.


Separate the trinomial into its individual fractions and reduce.

\begin{align*}& -\frac{3m^2}{9m}-\frac{18m}{9m}+\frac{6}{9m}\\ & -\frac{m}{3}-2+\frac{2}{3m}\end{align*}

Polynomials can also be divided by binomials. However, instead of separating into its individual fractions, we use a process called long division.

Example C

Simplify \begin{align*}\frac{x^2+4x+5}{x+3}\end{align*}.


When we perform division, the expression in the numerator is called the dividend and the expression in the denominator is called the divisor.

To start the division we rewrite the problem in the following form.

Start by dividing the first term in the dividend by the first term in the divisor \begin{align*}\frac{x^2}{x}=x\end{align*}. Place the answer on the line above the \begin{align*}x\end{align*} term.

Next, multiply the \begin{align*}x\end{align*} term in the answer by each of the \begin{align*}x+3\end{align*} terms in the divisor and place the result under the divided, matching like terms.

Now subtract \begin{align*}x^2+3x\end{align*} from \begin{align*}x^2+4x+5\end{align*}. It is useful to change the signs of the terms of \begin{align*}x^2+3x\end{align*} to \begin{align*}-x^2-3x\end{align*} and add like terms vertically.

Now, bring down 5, the next term in the dividend.

Repeat the process. First divide the first term of \begin{align*}x+5\end{align*} by the first term of the divisor \begin{align*}\left(\frac{x}{x}\right)=1\end{align*}. Place this answer on the line above the constant term of the dividend.

Multiply 1 by the divisor \begin{align*}x+3\end{align*} and write the answer below \begin{align*}x+5\end{align*}, matching like terms.

Subtract \begin{align*}x+3\end{align*} from \begin{align*}x+5\end{align*} by changing the signs of \begin{align*}x+3\end{align*} to \begin{align*}-x-3\end{align*} and adding like terms.

Since there are no more terms from the dividend to bring down, we are done.

The answer is \begin{align*}x+1\end{align*} with a remainder of 2.

Guided Practice

Divide \begin{align*}9x^2-16\end{align*} by \begin{align*}3x+4\end{align*}.


You are being asked to simplify:

\begin{align*} \frac{9x^2-16}{3x+4}.\end{align*}

You could use long division to find the answer. You can also use patterns of polynomials to simplify and cancel.

Recall that \begin{align*}a^2-b^2=(a+b)(a-b).\end{align*} Use this pattern to solve this problem since \begin{align*} 9x^2-16=(3x)^2-4^2\end{align*}:

\begin{align*} \frac{9x^2-16}{3x+4}&=\frac{(3x)^2-4^2}{3x+4}\\ &=\frac{(3x-4)(3x+4)}{3x+4}\\ &=3x-4 \end{align*}


Sample explanations for some of the practice exercises below are available by viewing the following video. Note that there is not always a match between the number of the practice exercise in the video and the number of the practice exercise listed in the following exercise set. However, the practice exercise is the same in both. CK-12 Basic Algebra: Polynomial Division (12:09)

Divide the following polynomials.

  1. \begin{align*}\frac{2x+4}{2}\end{align*}
  2. \begin{align*}\frac{x-4}{x}\end{align*}
  3. \begin{align*}\frac{5x-35}{5x}\end{align*}
  4. \begin{align*}\frac{x^2+2x-5}{x}\end{align*}
  5. \begin{align*}\frac{4x^2+12x-36}{-4x}\end{align*}
  6. \begin{align*}\frac{2x^2+10x+7}{2x^2}\end{align*}
  7. \begin{align*}\frac{x^3-x}{-2x^2}\end{align*}
  8. \begin{align*}\frac{5x^4-9}{3x}\end{align*}
  9. \begin{align*}\frac{x^3-12x^2+3x-4}{12x^2}\end{align*}
  10. \begin{align*}\frac{3-6x+x^3}{-9x^3}\end{align*}
  11. \begin{align*}\frac{x^2+3x+6}{x+1}\end{align*}
  12. \begin{align*}\frac{x^2-9x+6}{x-1}\end{align*}
  13. \begin{align*}\frac{x^2+5x+4}{x+4}\end{align*}
  14. \begin{align*}\frac{x^2-10x+25}{x-5}\end{align*}
  15. \begin{align*}\frac{x^2-20x+12}{x-3}\end{align*}
  16. \begin{align*}\frac{3x^2-x+5}{x-2}\end{align*}
  17. \begin{align*}\frac{9x^2+2x-8}{x+4}\end{align*}
  18. \begin{align*}\frac{3x^2-4}{3x+1}\end{align*}
  19. \begin{align*}\frac{5x^2+2x-9}{2x-1}\end{align*}
  20. \begin{align*}\frac{x^2-6x-12}{5x+4}\end{align*}
  21. \begin{align*}\frac{x^4-2x}{8x+24}\end{align*}
  22. \begin{align*}\frac{x^3+1}{4x-1}\end{align*}

Mixed Review

  1. Boyle’s Law states that the pressure of a compressed gas varies inversely as its pressure. If the pressure of a 200-pound gas is 16.75 psi, find the pressure if the amount of gas is 60 pounds.
  2. Is \begin{align*}5x^3+x^2-x^{-1}+8\end{align*} an example of a polynomial? Explain your answer.
  3. Find the slope of the line perpendicular to \begin{align*}y=-\frac{3}{4} x+5\end{align*}.
  4. How many two-person teams can be made from a group of nine individuals?
  5. Solve for \begin{align*}m: -4= \frac{\sqrt{m-3}}{-2}\end{align*}.

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Adding Fraction Property For all real numbers a, b, and c, and c \neq 0, \frac{a+b}{c} = \frac{a}{c}+\frac{b}{c}.
Denominator The denominator of a fraction (rational number) is the number on the bottom and indicates the total number of equal parts in the whole or the group. \frac{5}{8} has denominator 8.
Dividend In a division problem, the dividend is the number or expression that is being divided.
divisor In a division problem, the divisor is the number or expression that is being divided into the dividend. For example: In the expression 152 \div 6, 6 is the divisor and 152 is the dividend.
Polynomial long division Polynomial long division is the standard method of long division, applied to the division of polynomials.
Rational Expression A rational expression is a fraction with polynomials in the numerator and the denominator.
Rational Root Theorem The rational root theorem states that for a polynomial, f(x)=a_nx^n+a_{n-1}x^{n-1}+\cdots+a_1x+a_0, where a_n, a_{n-1}, \cdots a_0 are integers, the rational roots can be determined from the factors of a_n and a_0. More specifically, if p is a factor of a_0 and q is a factor of a_n, then all the rational factors will have the form \pm \frac{p}{q}.
Remainder Theorem The remainder theorem states that if f(k) = r, then r is the remainder when dividing f(x) by (x - k).
Synthetic Division Synthetic division is a shorthand version of polynomial long division where only the coefficients of the polynomial are used.

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Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
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