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It is the First Day of Algebra II Class and the Teacher Ask

It is the First Day of Algebra II Class and the Teacher Ask

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Published by Steve Schoupp

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Published by: Steve Schoupp on Dec 05, 2012
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03/28/2014

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It is the first day of Algebra II class and the teacher asks his/her students to expand thebinomial (x+y)
14
. As the students silently roll their respective eyes and begin their perfunctoryduty of algebraically multiplying (x+y) fourteen times, a collective sigh permeates the classroomas each student wonders if there might be an easier way to expand this binomial. The question of expanding binomials has befuddled similar classrooms since the advent of algebra and itspermutations. One such solution, although it can be traced back to 5
th
-2
nd
century B.C. India, for
quickly finding the coefficients in a binomial expansion is known as Pascal’s triangle and
was created by the French mathematician Blaise Pascal in the 17
th
century. A simpler and moreefficient solution to binomial expansion was the development of the binomial theorem as firstsuggested Isaac Newton during the 18
th
century. This theorem is also used extensively in findingthe distribution properties of probability and statistical solutions. As will be shown in this paper,each of these solutions is easier and much more efficient in expanding high degree binomialsthan tedious algebraic multiplication.Expanding a binomial equation such as (x+y)
2
just means multiplying it out long hand as(x+y) (x+y) = x
2
+2xy+y
2
. Having to do this for (x+y)
14
would be soporific at best. This
inconvenient way of binomial expansion led to the creation of Pascal’s tri
angle, as seen below,by the French mathematician Blaise Pascal:1 Row (degree) 01 1 Row (degree) 11 2 1 Row (degree) 21 3 3 1 Row (degree) 31 4 6 4 1 Row (degree) 41 5 10 10 5 1 Row (degree) 5
 
As can be seen, the triangle is infinitely symmetrical, each row having one more entry than the
 previous one. Every row begins and ends with “1” and the interior numbers are found by adding
t
he adjacent two numbers in the preceding row. Utilizing Pascal’s triangle and knowing the
degree of a binomial, the coefficients of any binomial expansion can be enumerated. Forexample, (x+y)
5
is a binomial expression of the 5
th
degree and by using the 5
th
row (degree) of 
Pascal’s Triangle, the coefficients are found to be 1..5..10..10..5..1 (the triangle working for any
exponent
n
being a natural number). Therefore, the formula to find any coefficient for a binomialexpression (x+y)
n
is n!/(n-k)!k!, where
n
 
is the row (degree) number of Pascal’s Triangle and
 is the position number of the coefficient to be found (remember that the 1
st
 
coefficient “1” inevery row is always place “0”). Employing the formula to the original problem in our Algebra II
class of (x+y)
14
, we can find, for example, the 3
rd
coefficient in the expansion by plugging in for
n
(row or degree) 14 and for
(coefficient to be found) 3. Then we have 14!/(14-3)!3!= 14!/11!-3!= 14x13x12/3x2x1= 7x13x4= 364. Thus 364 is the 3
rd
coefficient of the expansion of (x+y)
14
.
Although Pascal’s Triangle is an improvement over algebraic multiplication, its computations
can become tiresome the higher the binomials degree and it does not equate the powers.An even more efficient formula for expanding binomial expressions was proposed in the 18
th
 century and is usually credited to Isaac Newton, although there is some evidence it was first putforth by the German mathematician Gottfried Leibnitz. Known as the binomial theorem, thisformula expands any binomial expression of the form (x+y)
n
, where
n
is any positive integer and
 x
and
 y
are any two real or complex number, into the sum of powers of 
 x
and
 y
:or expanded as x
n
+(x
n-1
y)n!/(n-k)!k! + (x
n-2
y
2
)n!/(n-k)!k! + (x
n-3
y
3
)n1/(n-
k)!k!……….y
n
 
 
where
n
is the exponent and degree of the binomial expression and
being the coefficientplacement number taking on successive values from 0 to
n
(note the similarity with Pascal’s
Triangle of the coefficient formula of n!/(n-k)!k! and of the use of 
as the placement position of the each coefficient and the use of 
n
in determining the binomial degree and the number of termsin the each binomial expansion). The properties of the binomial theorem for any binomialexpression (x+y)
n
are that the expansion will began with the term x
n
and end with the term y
n
andconsist of n+1 terms; the exponents of 
 x
will decrease by one, while the exponents of 
 y
willincrease by one for each succeeding term with the sum of each
 xy
term being
n
; and, lastly,multiplying the coefficient and exponent of any term and dividing the product by the number of 
that term (it’s placement in the sequence) will provide the coefficient for the next term in the
expansion. For example, to expand the original problem of (x+y)
14
using the binomial theoremand its properties, the beginning term would be x
14
and the last term would be y
14
. Thecoefficient of the 2
nd
term would then be 1 (the current coefficient) times 14 (the currentexponent of 
 x
) divided by 1(the current term number) making the next coefficient 14.Decreasing the exponent of 
 x
in the current term and increasing the exponent of 
 y
in the currentterm by one, respectively makes the send term in the expansion 14x
13
y. The second term wouldthen be of 14 (current coefficient) times 13 (current exponent) divided by 2 (current position) =91 and a term of x
12
y
2
or 91x
12
y
2
. The expression becomes symmetrical around x
7
y
7
and thecoefficients descend in reverse order of succession, where as the exponents of each
 x
termcontinues to decrease by one and the exponents of each
 y
term increases by one. The binomialtheorem can be applied to many scientific and mathematical fields particularly in probability andstatistical computations to describe the distribution of data around a mean value, otherwiseknown as the binomial property distribution.

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