What Are Polynomials Used For?

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A basic form of mathematical expression, polynomials are used in all branches of advanced mathematics, from basic algebra to calculus and beyond. Polynomial functions play a role in economics, statistics, chemistry, numerical analysis and error correction in encoded material.

Polynomials are so old that their date of invention is unknown; examples have been found dating back to ancient Greek and Chinese mathematical problems. Modern algebraic notation and polynomials as they are written today date to the 16th century, when the first known use of the equal sign is attributed to Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde. The first known graph of a polynomial equation is from 1637 and was created by the famous French philosopher and mathematician Rene Descartes. Descartes is also credited with assigning the letters still used today for constants and variables, and for inventing modern superscript notation for exponents.

Concepts considered to be basic parts of polynomials today are part of a series of discoveries dating from before the advent of recorded mathematical history to Descartes' work in the 17th century. With the basic structure for polynomials in place, work after this period builds upon its foundation to codify the more advanced branches of mathematics. The basic structure of the polynomial is largely unchanged from Descartes' time.