What Is Polynomial Representation in Data Structure?


Larry Thompson

What Is Polynomial Representation in Data Structure?

Data structures are an essential part of computer science and are used to organize and store data efficiently. One such data structure is polynomial representation, which is commonly used in various mathematical applications and algorithms. In this article, we will explore what polynomial representation is and how it can be implemented.

The Basics of Polynomials

Before diving into polynomial representation, let’s first understand what polynomials are. In mathematics, a polynomial is an expression consisting of variables (also known as indeterminates) and coefficients, combined using addition, subtraction, and multiplication. The variables can only have non-negative integer exponents.

A polynomial can be written in the form:

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

where P(x) represents the polynomial function, x is the variable, an, an-1, ., a0 are the coefficients, and n is the degree of the polynomial.

Polynomial Representation in Data Structure

In computer science, polynomial representation refers to storing and manipulating polynomials in an efficient manner. There are several ways to represent polynomials using different data structures. One commonly used representation is the linked list representation.

The Linked List Representation

In linked list representation, each term of the polynomial is stored as a node in a linked list. Each node contains two fields – one for storing the coefficient and another for storing the exponent.

To better understand this representation, let’s consider an example polynomial:

P(x) = 3x2 + 2x + 1

In the linked list representation, this polynomial can be represented using the following linked list:

  • Node 1: Coefficient = 3, Exponent = 2
  • Node 2: Coefficient = 2, Exponent = 1
  • Node 3: Coefficient = 1, Exponent = 0

Each node is connected to the next node using pointers, forming a linked list. The last node points to NULL to indicate the end of the polynomial.

Advantages of Linked List Representation

The linked list representation offers several advantages:

  • Efficient Memory Usage: Linked list representation only stores non-zero terms of a polynomial, resulting in efficient memory usage.
  • Easy Manipulation: Adding or removing terms from a polynomial becomes easier as it involves modifying the links between nodes.

Limits and Considerations

While linked list representation has its advantages, it also has some limitations and considerations:

  • Inefficient Arithmetic Operations: Performing arithmetic operations (such as addition or multiplication) on polynomials represented using linked lists can be computationally expensive as it requires traversing and modifying multiple nodes.
  • Limited Functionality: Linked list representation is primarily suited for sparse polynomials (polynomials with many zero coefficients). For dense polynomials (polynomials with mostly non-zero coefficients), other representations like arrays may be more efficient.


Polynomial representation is an important concept in data structures, particularly in mathematical applications. The linked list representation provides an efficient way to store and manipulate polynomials, especially for sparse polynomials. However, it’s essential to consider the limitations of linked list representation and choose the appropriate representation based on the specific requirements of the problem at hand.

By understanding polynomial representation and its various implementations, you can effectively work with polynomials in your algorithms and mathematical computations.

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