Algebra of Polynomial Functions

Learning Outcomes

  • Perform algebraic operations on polynomial functions

Just as we have performed algebraic operations on polynomials, we can do the same with polynomial functions. In this section, we will show you how to perform algebraic operations on polynomial functions and introduce related notation.

The four basic operations on functions are adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. The notation for these functions is as follows:

Addition [latex](f + g)(x) = f(x)+ g(x)[/latex]

Subtraction [latex](f − g)(x)= f(x) − g(x)[/latex]

Multiplication [latex](f · g)(x)= f(x)g(x)[/latex]

Division [latex]\frac{f}{ g} (x) = \frac{f(x)}{g(x)}[/latex]

We will focus on applying these operations to polynomial functions in this section.

Add and Subtract Polynomial Functions

Adding and subtracting polynomial functions is the same as adding and subtracting polynomials. When you evaluate a sum or difference of functions, you can either evaluate first or perform the operation on the functions first as we will see. Our next examples describe the notation used to add and subtract polynomial functions.


Let [latex]f(x)=2x^3-5x+3[/latex] and [latex]h(x)=x-5[/latex],

Find the following:

[latex](f+h)(x)[/latex] and [latex](h-f)(x)[/latex]

In our next example, we will evaluate a sum of functions and show that you can get to the same result in one of two ways.


Let [latex]f(x)=2x^3-5x+3[/latex] and [latex]h(x)=x-5[/latex]

Evaluate: [latex](f+h)(2)[/latex]

Show that you get the same result by

1) Evaluating the functions first then performing the indicated operation on the result.

2) Performing the operation on the functions first then evaluating the result.

Multiply and Divide Polynomial Functions

We saw that multiplying polynomials often required the use of the distributive property and that the algebra of dividing polynomials could get messy fast!  The same techniques can be used to multiply and divide polynomial functions. Additionally, the same idea applies to evaluating a product or quotient of functions as we discovered in the previous example. We can either evaluate the function and then perform the indicated operation or vice-versa. You may already be thinking it will be a lot less work to evaluate the polynomials and then divide the results!


Let [latex]g(t)=2t^3-t^2+7[/latex] and [latex]f(t)=5t^2-3[/latex]

Find [latex](g · f)(t)[/latex], and evaluate [latex](g · f)(-1)[/latex]

In the next example, we will divide polynomial functions and then evaluate the new function.


Given [latex]p(x)=2x^2+x-15[/latex] and [latex]r(x)=x+3[/latex]

Find [latex]\frac{p}{r}(x)[/latex] and evaluate [latex]\frac{p}{r}(2)[/latex]