In elementary algebra, the binomial theorem (or binomial expansion) describes the algebraic expansion of powers of a binomial. According to the theorem, it is possible to expand the polynomial (x + y)^{n} into a sum involving terms of the form ax^{b}y^{c}, where the exponents b and c are nonnegative integers with b + c = n, and the coefficient a of each term is a specific positive integer depending on n and b. For example, for n = 4,
The coefficient a in the term of ax^{b}y^{c} is known as the binomial coefficient or (the two have the same value). These coefficients for varying n and b can be arranged to form Pascal's triangle. These numbers also occur in combinatorics, where gives the number of different combinations (i.e. subsets) of b elements that can be chosen from an nelement set. Therefore is usually pronounced as "n choose b".
Special cases of the binomial theorem were known since at least the 4th century BC when Greek mathematician Euclid mentioned the special case of the binomial theorem for exponent .^{[1]} Greek mathematician Diophantus cubed various binomials, including .^{[1]} Indian mathematician Aryabhata's method for finding cube roots, from around 510 CE, suggests that he knew the binomial formula for exponent .^{[1]}
Binomial coefficients, as combinatorial quantities expressing the number of ways of selecting k objects out of n without replacement, were of interest to ancient Indian mathematicians. The earliest known reference to this combinatorial problem is the Chandaḥśāstra by the Indian lyricist Pingala (c. 200 BC), which contains a method for its solution.^{[2]}^{: 230 } The commentator Halayudha from the 10th century AD explains this method.^{[2]}^{: 230 } By the 6th century AD, the Indian mathematicians probably knew how to express this as a quotient ,^{[3]} and a clear statement of this rule can be found in the 12th century text Lilavati by Bhaskara.^{[3]}
The first known formulation of the binomial theorem and the table of binomial coefficients appears in a work by AlKaraji, quoted by AlSamaw'al in his "alBahir".^{[4]}^{[5]}^{[6]} AlKaraji described the triangular pattern of the binomial coefficients^{[7]} and also provided a mathematical proof of both the binomial theorem and Pascal's triangle, using an early form of mathematical induction.^{[7]} The Persian poet and mathematician Omar Khayyam was probably familiar with the formula to higher orders, although many of his mathematical works are lost.^{[1]} The binomial expansions of small degrees were known in the 13th century mathematical works of Yang Hui^{[8]} and also Chu ShihChieh.^{[1]} Yang Hui attributes the method to a much earlier 11th century text of Jia Xian, although those writings are now also lost.^{[2]}^{: 142 }
In 1544, Michael Stifel introduced the term "binomial coefficient" and showed how to use them to express in terms of , via "Pascal's triangle".^{[9]} Blaise Pascal studied the eponymous triangle comprehensively in his Traité du triangle arithmétique.^{[10]} However, the pattern of numbers was already known to the European mathematicians of the late Renaissance, including Stifel, Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia, and Simon Stevin.^{[9]}
Isaac Newton is generally credited with discovering the generalized binomial theorem, valid for any real exponent, in 1665.^{[9]}^{[11]} It was discovered independently in 1670 by James Gregory.^{[12]}
According to the theorem, the expansion of any nonnegative integer power n of the binomial x + y is a sum of the form where each is a positive integer known as a binomial coefficient, defined as
This formula is also referred to as the binomial formula or the binomial identity. Using summation notation, it can be written more concisely as
The final expression follows from the previous one by the symmetry of x and y in the first expression, and by comparison it follows that the sequence of binomial coefficients in the formula is symmetrical,
A simple variant of the binomial formula is obtained by substituting 1 for y, so that it involves only a single variable. In this form, the formula reads
Here are the first few cases of the binomial theorem: In general, for the expansion of (x + y)^{n} on the right side in the nth row (numbered so that the top row is the 0th row):
An example illustrating the last two points: with .
A simple example with a specific positive value of y:
A simple example with a specific negative value of y:
For positive values of a and b, the binomial theorem with n = 2 is the geometrically evident fact that a square of side a + b can be cut into a square of side a, a square of side b, and two rectangles with sides a and b. With n = 3, the theorem states that a cube of side a + b can be cut into a cube of side a, a cube of side b, three a × a × b rectangular boxes, and three a × b × b rectangular boxes.
In calculus, this picture also gives a geometric proof of the derivative ^{[13]} if one sets and interpreting b as an infinitesimal change in a, then this picture shows the infinitesimal change in the volume of an ndimensional hypercube, where the coefficient of the linear term (in ) is the area of the n faces, each of dimension n − 1: Substituting this into the definition of the derivative via a difference quotient and taking limits means that the higher order terms, and higher, become negligible, and yields the formula interpreted as
If one integrates this picture, which corresponds to applying the fundamental theorem of calculus, one obtains Cavalieri's quadrature formula, the integral – see proof of Cavalieri's quadrature formula for details.^{[13]}
The coefficients that appear in the binomial expansion are called binomial coefficients. These are usually written and pronounced "n choose k".
The coefficient of x^{n−k}y^{k} is given by the formula which is defined in terms of the factorial function n!. Equivalently, this formula can be written with k factors in both the numerator and denominator of the fraction. Although this formula involves a fraction, the binomial coefficient is actually an integer.
The binomial coefficient can be interpreted as the number of ways to choose k elements from an nelement set. This is related to binomials for the following reason: if we write (x + y)^{n} as a product then, according to the distributive law, there will be one term in the expansion for each choice of either x or y from each of the binomials of the product. For example, there will only be one term x^{n}, corresponding to choosing x from each binomial. However, there will be several terms of the form x^{n−2}y^{2}, one for each way of choosing exactly two binomials to contribute a y. Therefore, after combining like terms, the coefficient of x^{n−2}y^{2} will be equal to the number of ways to choose exactly 2 elements from an nelement set.
Expanding (x + y)^{n} yields the sum of the 2^{n} products of the form e_{1}e_{2} ... e_{n} where each e_{i} is x or y. Rearranging factors shows that each product equals x^{n−k}y^{k} for some k between 0 and n. For a given k, the following are proved equal in succession:
This proves the binomial theorem.
The coefficient of xy^{2} in equals because there are three x,y strings of length 3 with exactly two y's, namely, corresponding to the three 2element subsets of {1, 2, 3}, namely, where each subset specifies the positions of the y in a corresponding string.
Induction yields another proof of the binomial theorem. When n = 0, both sides equal 1, since x^{0} = 1 and Now suppose that the equality holds for a given n; we will prove it for n + 1. For j, k ≥ 0, let [f(x, y)]_{j,k} denote the coefficient of x^{j}y^{k} in the polynomial f(x, y). By the inductive hypothesis, (x + y)^{n} is a polynomial in x and y such that [(x + y)^{n}]_{j,k} is if j + k = n, and 0 otherwise. The identity shows that (x + y)^{n+1} is also a polynomial in x and y, and since if j + k = n + 1, then (j − 1) + k = n and j + (k − 1) = n. Now, the right hand side is by Pascal's identity.^{[14]} On the other hand, if j + k ≠ n + 1, then (j – 1) + k ≠ n and j + (k – 1) ≠ n, so we get 0 + 0 = 0. Thus which is the inductive hypothesis with n + 1 substituted for n and so completes the inductive step.
Around 1665, Isaac Newton generalized the binomial theorem to allow real exponents other than nonnegative integers. (The same generalization also applies to complex exponents.) In this generalization, the finite sum is replaced by an infinite series. In order to do this, one needs to give meaning to binomial coefficients with an arbitrary upper index, which cannot be done using the usual formula with factorials. However, for an arbitrary number r, one can define where is the Pochhammer symbol, here standing for a falling factorial. This agrees with the usual definitions when r is a nonnegative integer. Then, if x and y are real numbers with x > y,^{[Note 1]} and r is any complex number, one has
When r is a nonnegative integer, the binomial coefficients for k > r are zero, so this equation reduces to the usual binomial theorem, and there are at most r + 1 nonzero terms. For other values of r, the series typically has infinitely many nonzero terms.
For example, r = 1/2 gives the following series for the square root:
Taking r = −1, the generalized binomial series gives the geometric series formula, valid for x < 1:
More generally, with r = −s, we have for x < 1:^{[15]}
So, for instance, when s = 1/2,
Replacing x with x yields:
So, for instance, when s = 1/2, we have for x < 1:
The generalized binomial theorem can be extended to the case where x and y are complex numbers. For this version, one should again assume x > y^{[Note 1]} and define the powers of x + y and x using a holomorphic branch of log defined on an open disk of radius x centered at x. The generalized binomial theorem is valid also for elements x and y of a Banach algebra as long as xy = yx, and x is invertible, and ‖y/x‖ < 1.
A version of the binomial theorem is valid for the following Pochhammer symbollike family of polynomials: for a given real constant c, define and for Then^{[16]} The case c = 0 recovers the usual binomial theorem.
More generally, a sequence of polynomials is said to be of binomial type if
An operator on the space of polynomials is said to be the basis operator of the sequence if and for all . A sequence is binomial if and only if its basis operator is a Delta operator.^{[17]} Writing for the shift by operator, the Delta operators corresponding to the above "Pochhammer" families of polynomials are the backward difference for , the ordinary derivative for , and the forward difference for .
The binomial theorem can be generalized to include powers of sums with more than two terms. The general version is
where the summation is taken over all sequences of nonnegative integer indices k_{1} through k_{m} such that the sum of all k_{i} is n. (For each term in the expansion, the exponents must add up to n). The coefficients are known as multinomial coefficients, and can be computed by the formula
Combinatorially, the multinomial coefficient counts the number of different ways to partition an nelement set into disjoint subsets of sizes k_{1}, ..., k_{m}.
When working in more dimensions, it is often useful to deal with products of binomial expressions. By the binomial theorem this is equal to
This may be written more concisely, by multiindex notation, as
The general Leibniz rule gives the nth derivative of a product of two functions in a form similar to that of the binomial theorem:^{[18]}
Here, the superscript (n) indicates the nth derivative of a function, . If one sets f(x) = e^{ax} and g(x) = e^{bx}, cancelling the common factor of e^{(a + b)x} from each term gives the ordinary binomial theorem.^{[19]}
For the complex numbers the binomial theorem can be combined with de Moivre's formula to yield multipleangle formulas for the sine and cosine. According to De Moivre's formula,
Using the binomial theorem, the expression on the right can be expanded, and then the real and imaginary parts can be taken to yield formulas for cos(nx) and sin(nx). For example, since But De Moivre's formula identifies the left side with , so which are the usual doubleangle identities. Similarly, since De Moivre's formula yields In general, and There are also similar formulas using Chebyshev polynomials.
The number e is often defined by the formula
Applying the binomial theorem to this expression yields the usual infinite series for e. In particular:
The kth term of this sum is
As n → ∞, the rational expression on the right approaches 1, and therefore
This indicates that e can be written as a series:
Indeed, since each term of the binomial expansion is an increasing function of n, it follows from the monotone convergence theorem for series that the sum of this infinite series is equal to e.
The binomial theorem is closely related to the probability mass function of the negative binomial distribution. The probability of a (countable) collection of independent Bernoulli trials with probability of success all not happening is
An upper bound for this quantity is ^{[20]}
The binomial theorem is valid more generally for two elements x and y in a ring, or even a semiring, provided that xy = yx. For example, it holds for two n × n matrices, provided that those matrices commute; this is useful in computing powers of a matrix.^{[21]}
The binomial theorem can be stated by saying that the polynomial sequence {1, x, x^{2}, x^{3}, ...} is of binomial type.
However, algebra advanced in other respects. Around 1000, alKaraji stated the binomial theorem
Precalculus  

Limits  
Differential calculus 
 
Integral calculus  
Vector calculus 
 
Multivariable calculus  
Sequences and series 
 
Special functions and numbers  
History of calculus  
Lists 
 
Miscellaneous topics 
