What Is Polynomial in Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

A polynomial is a mathematical expression consisting of variables, coefficients, and exponents. It is an essential concept in data structures and is used to represent various types of data in a structured manner. In this article, we will explore what polynomials are in the context of data structures and how they are used.

What is a Polynomial?

A polynomial is an algebraic expression that consists of variables, coefficients, and exponents. It can have one or more terms, each separated by addition or subtraction operators. The general form of a polynomial is:

P(x) = anxn + an-1xn-1 + .. + a1x + a0


  • P(x) represents the polynomial function.
  • an, an-1, ., a0 are the coefficients of the polynomial.
  • x is the variable.
  • n is the highest exponent in the polynomial (also known as the degree).

Data Structure Representation of Polynomials

In data structures, polynomials are often represented using arrays or linked lists. Each element in the array or node in the linked list represents a term in the polynomial. The elements/nodes store the coefficient and exponent values for each term.

Array Representation:

In an array representation, each index corresponds to an exponent value, and the value at that index represents the coefficient. For example, consider the polynomial:

P(x) = 2x3 + 5x2 – 3x + 1

In the array representation, we would have:

  • Array Index: 0   1   2   3
  • Coefficient: 1   -3   5   2

The index represents the exponent, and the corresponding value represents the coefficient. If an exponent is missing in the polynomial, its coefficient is assumed to be zero.

Linked List Representation:

In a linked list representation, each node has two fields: coefficient and exponent. The nodes are linked together to form a chain representing the polynomial. For example, consider the same polynomial as before:

  • P(x) = 2x3 + 5x2 – 3x + 1

The linked list representation would be:

  • [2,3] -> [5,2] -> [-3,1] -> [1,null]

In this representation, each node contains a coefficient-exponent pair. The last node has a null reference to indicate the end of the polynomial.

Operations on Polynomials in Data Structures

Data structures provide various operations to perform on polynomials. Some common operations include:


To add two polynomials P(x) and Q(x), we add the coefficients of corresponding terms. The resulting polynomial is the sum of the two polynomials.


To multiply two polynomials P(x) and Q(x), we multiply each term of P(x) with each term of Q(x) and add the products. The resulting polynomial is the product of the two polynomials.


To evaluate a polynomial P(x) at a given value of x, we substitute x with the given value and calculate the result. This operation helps in finding the value of a polynomial for a particular input.


Polynomials are an essential concept in data structures as they provide a structured way to represent mathematical expressions. By using arrays or linked lists, polynomials can be efficiently stored and manipulated. Operations like addition, multiplication, and evaluation enable us to perform mathematical computations on polynomials effectively.

Understanding polynomials and their representation in data structures is crucial for solving various mathematical problems and implementing algorithms that involve mathematical computations.

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