7.5 General Strategy for Factoring Polynomials

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Recognize and use the appropriate method to factor a polynomial completely

Recognize and Use the Appropriate Method to Factor a Polynomial Completely

You have now become acquainted with all the methods of factoring that you will need in this course. (In your next algebra course, more methods will be added to your repertoire.) The figure below summarizes all the factoring methods we have covered. Figure 7.4 outlines a strategy you should use when factoring polynomials.

This figure presents a general strategy for factoring polynomials. First, at the top, there is GCF, which is where factoring starts. Below this, there are three options, binomial, trinomial, and more than three terms. For binomial, there are the difference of two squares, the sum of squares, the sum of cubes, and the difference of cubes. For trinomials, there are two forms, x squared plus bx plus c and ax squared 2 plus b x plus c. There are also the sum and difference of two squares formulas as well as the “a c” method. Finally, for more than three terms, the method is grouping.

How To

Factor polynomials.

  • Step 1. Is there a greatest common factor?
    • Factor it out.
  • Step 2. Is the polynomial a binomial, trinomial, or are there more than three terms?
    • If it is a binomial:
      Is it a sum?
      • Of squares? Sums of squares do not factor.
      • Of cubes? Use the sum of cubes pattern.Is it a difference?
      • Of squares? Factor as the product of conjugates.
      • Of cubes? Use the difference of cubes pattern.
    • If it is a trinomial:
      Is it of the form x2+bx+c? Undo FOIL.
      Is it of the form ax2+bx+c?
      • If a and c are squares, check if it fits the trinomial square pattern.
      • Use the trial and error or “ac” method.
    • If it has more than three terms:
      Use the grouping method.
  • Step 3. Check.
    • Is it factored completely?
    • Do the factors multiply back to the original polynomial?

Remember, a polynomial is completely factored if, other than monomials, its factors are prime!

Section 7.5 Exercises

Practice Makes Perfect

Recognize and Use the Appropriate Method to Factor a Polynomial Completely

In the following exercises, factor completely.

Everyday Math

Writing Exercises

Self Check

ⓐ After completing the exercises, use this checklist to evaluate your mastery of the objectives of this section.This table has the following statements all to be preceded by “I can…”. The row states “recognize and use the appropriate method to factor a polynomial completely”. In the columns beside these statements are the headers, “confidently”, “with some help”, and “no-I don’t get it!”.

ⓑ Overall, after looking at the checklist, do you think you are well-prepared for the next section? Why or why not?