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While algorithms for solving polynomial equations of degree at most 4 exist, there are in general no such algorithms for polynomials of higher degree. A polynomial equation to be solved at an Olympiad is usually solvable by using the Rational Root Theorem (see the earlier handout Rational and irrational numbers), symmetry, special forms, and/or symmetric functions. Here are, for the record, algorithms for solving 3rd and 4th degree equations. Algorithm for solving cubic equations. The general cubic equation c 0 + c 1 x + c 2 x2 + c 3 x3 = 0 can be transformed (by dividing by c3 and letting z := x + z 3 + pz + q = 0. To solve this equation, we substitute x = u + v to obtain u3 + v 3 + (u + v)(3uv + p) + q = 0. Note that we are free to restrict u and v so that uv = p/3. Then u3 and v 3 are the roots of the equation z 2 + qz p3 /27 = 0. Solving this equation, we obtain q u3 , v 3 = 2, 2 where R := Now we may choose cube roots so that A :=

3

c2 ) 3c3

q 2

p 3

q + R, 2

B :=

q R. 2

Then A + B is a solution. It is easily checked that the other pairs are obtained by rotating A and B in the complex plane by angles 2/3, 2/3. So, the full set of solutions is {A + B, A + B, A + B} where := e2i/3 .

Ferraris method of solving quartic equations. The general quartic equation is reduced to a cubic equation called the resolvent. write the quartic equation as x4 + 2ax3 + b2 + 2cx + d = 0. Transpose to obtain x4 + 2ax3 = bx2 2cx d

1

and then adding 2rx2 +(ax+r)2 to both sides makes the left-hand side equal to (x2 +ax+r)2 . If r can be chosen to make the right-hand side a perfect square, then it will be easy to nd all solutions. The right-hand side, (2r + a2 b)x2 + 2(ar c)x + (r 2 d), is a perfect square if and only if its discriminant is zero. Thus we require 2r 3 br 2 + 2(ac d)r + (bd a2 d c2 ) = 0. This is the cubic resolvent. Reciprocal or palindromic equations. If the equation the form a0 +a1 x+ +an xn = 0 and aj = anj for all j = 0, . . . , n, it is called palindromic. For even n, the transformation 1 z := x + x reduces the equation to a new one of degree n/2. After nding all solutions zj , 1 the solutions of the original equation are found by solving quadratic equations x + x = zj . Examples. 1. Solve x4 + 2x3 + 7x2 + 6x + 8 = 0. 2. Solve x4 + 2ax3 + bx2 + 2ax + 1 = 0. 3. Solve x3 3x + 1 = 0. 4. Solve x4 26x2 + 72x 11 = 0. 5. Solve z 4 2z 3 + z 2 a = 0 and nd values of a for which all roots are real. Denitions. A function of n variables is symmetric if it is invariant under any permutation of its variables. The kth elementary symmeric function is dened by k (x1 , . . . , xn ) := where the sum is taken over all {1, 2, . . . , n}.

n k

xi 1 xi 2 x i k ,

Symmetric function theorem. Every symmetric polynomial function of x1 , . . ., xn is a polynomial function of 1 , . . ., n . The same conclusion holds with polynomial replaced by rational function. Theorem. Let x1 , . . ., xn be the roots of the polynomial equation xn + c1 xn1 + + cn = 0, and let k be the kth elementary symmetric function of x1 , . . ., xn . Then k = (1)k ck , Newtons formula for power sums. Let Sp := xp + xp + + xp , 1 2 n

2

k = 1, . . . , n.

p IN,

where x1 , . . ., xn are the roots of xn + c1 xn1 + + cn = 0. Then S1 + c 1 S2 + c1 S1 + 2c2 S3 + c1 S2 + c2 S1 + 3c3 Sn + c1 Sn1 + + cn1 S1 + ncn Sp + c1 Sp1 + + cn Spn Examples. 1. Find all solutions of the system x+y+z = 0 x + y 2 + z 2 = 6ab x3 + y 3 + z 3 = 3(a3 + b3 ).

2

= 0 = 0 = 0 = 0 = 0,

p > n.

2. If x+y+z = 1 x + y2 + z2 = 2 x3 + y 3 + z 3 = 3,

2

determine the value of x4 + y 4 + z 4 . 3. Let Gn := an sin(nA) + bn sin(nB) + cn sin(nC), where a, b, c, A, B, C are real numbers and A + B + C is a multiple of . Prove that if G1 = G2 = 0, then Gk = 0 for all k IN. 4. Find a cubic equation whose roots are the cubes of the roots of x3 + ax2 + bx + c = 0. 5. Find all values of the parameter a such that all roots of the equation x6 + 3x5 + (6 a)x4 + (7 2a)x3 + (6 a)x2 + 3x + 1 = 0 are real. 6. A student awoke at the end of an algebra class just in time to hear the teacher say, ...and I give you a hint that the roots form an arithmetic progression. Looking at the board, the student discovered a fth degree equation to be solved for homework, but he had time to copy only x5 5x4 35x3 + before the teacher erased the blackboard. He was able to nd all roots anyway. What are the roots?

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