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AQA Core 2 Sequences and series

Section 4: The binomial expansion

Notes and Examples

In this section you will learn to multiply out expressions of the form (a + b) n , where n is a positive integer.

These notes contain subsections on:

Using Pascal’s triangle

The formula for binomial coefficients

Binomial expansion using the formula

Approximations

Using Pascal’s triangle

You can multiply out any expression of the form (a + b) n , where n is a positive integer, by multiplying out the brackets, but of course this becomes more complicated the larger the value of n. The results for n up to 5 are as follows:

a

a

a

a

a

b

b

b

b

b

1

2

3

4

5

 

a

b

a

a

a

a

2

2

ab

b

2

3 2

3

a b

4

4

3

a b

5

5

4

a b

3

ab

2

b

3

6

2

a b

2

10

3

a b

4

ab

3

2

10

2

a b

b

4

3

5

ab

4

b

5

There are several patterns in the above expansions:

There are n + 1 terms in each expansion

The first term in each expansion is a n , and the last is b n .

As you look at the terms from left to right, the power of a decreases by 1 in each successive term, and the power of b increases by 1 in each successive term.

The sum of the powers of a and b in each term is n.

The coefficients of each term form a pattern known as Pascal’s triangle.

together the two numbers
diagonally above it

1

1

 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 3 3 1 4 6 4 5 10 10 5 1 of 5

1

1

18/11/13

AQA C2 Series 4 Notes and Examples

Expanding an expression of the form (a + b) n using Pascal’s triangle is quite straightforward.

Find the appropriate row of coefficients from Pascal’s triangle

The first term is a n and the powers of a go down by 1 in each term, so that the last term has no a in it.

The first term has no b in it and the powers of b go up by 1 in each term, so that the last term is b n .

Example 1
Expand (p + q) 5 .
Solution
The row you need from Pascal’s triangle starts with 1, 5
and has 6 numbers in it. The row is 1, 5, 10, 10, 5, 1.

(p + q) 5 = p 5 + 5p 4 q + 10p 3 q 2 + 10p 2 q 3 + 5pq 4 + q 5

The Flash resource Pascal’s triangle and binomial coefficients shows how the expansion of (a + b) n is related to Pascal’s triangle.

You expand (a + b) n in the same way whether a and b are numbers or letters. If they are numbers a little more work is involved as you need to work out the actual powers and multiply by the binomial coefficients. This is shown in the example below.

Example 2 Expand (x + 2) 6

Solution Using Pascal’s triangle, the binomial coefficients are 1, 6, 15, 20, 15, 6, 1.

(x + 2) 6 = 1x 6 + 6x 5 (2) + 15x 4 (2 2 ) + 20x 3 (2 3 ) + 15x 2 (2 4 ) + 6x(2 5 ) + 1(2 6 ) = x 6 + 12x 5 + 60x 4 + 160x 3 + 240x 2 + 192x + 64

If a negative is involved, remember that even powers of a negative number are positive, e.g. (-2) 4 = 16, but odd powers of a negative number are negative, e.g. (-2) 3 = -8.

Example 3 Expand (2x 3y) 4

2 of 5

18/11/13

AQA C2 Series 4 Notes and Examples

Solution From Pascal’s triangle, the binomial coefficients are 1, 4, 6, 4, 1

(2x 3y) 4 = (2x) 4 + 4(2x) 3 (-3y) + 6(2x) 2 (-3y) 2 + 4(2x)(-3y) 3 + (-3y) 4

= 16x 4 + 4(8x 3 )(-3y) + 6(4x 2 )(9y) + 4(2x)(-27y 3 ) + 81y 4

= 16x 4 96x 3 y + 216x 2 y 2 216xy 3 + 81y 4

The formula for binomial coefficients

It is possible to calculate the numbers in Pascal’s triangle directly using a formula.

If you are studying Statistics, you may have already met the factorial notation n! and the expression n C r .

n

 

r

n n ! r

1)

The definition of the binomial coefficient

  , or n C r , is

n n

(

1)

(

r

n

!(

)!

.

This formula is given in your formula book.

However, it is usually easier to use the form

 

r

1

2

 

3

r

.

This looks complicated in algebra but it is much easier when working with numbers. The denominator is the product of the integers from 1 up to r, and the numerator is the product of the integers from n down until you have r numbers altogether. So there must be an equal number of integers in the numerator and the denominator.

If you have to work this out without a calculator, there will be a lot of cancelling you can do, so the calculation usually ends up quite simple. The example below demonstrates working out without a calculator.

Note that the binomial coefficients are symmetrical, so that

you want to work out

 

15

12

 

, for example, you can work out

 

n

 

r

 

15

 

n

n

r

 

3

which is much easier.

Example 4
 
6
Find
(i)
(ii)
 
3
 
Solution
6  
5
4
 20
(i)
  6
    
3
1
2
 3

10

8

 

(iii)

 

12

4

 

. So if

AQA C2 Series 4 Notes and Examples

(ii)

(iii)

By symmetry 10 C 8 = 10 C 2
10
10
5
10
 9
 45
  
8
  
  
2
  
1
2
3 and 4 cancel with 12, and 2
cancels with 10 leaving 5.
12
12
11 10 5  9
1159  495
 
4
   
1
2
 3  4

For practice in examples like the one above, try the interactive questions Evaluating binomial coefficients.

Binomial expansion using the formula

Although you can use Pascal’s triangle from tables for most of the expansions you are likely to meet at this stage, there are times when you will have to use the formula for the binomial coefficients. If the value of n is large, the table may not show the row that you need.

In the A2 part of your ‘A’ level course you will learn to expand expressions involving a value of n that is not a positive whole number, such as 3 or ½. For values of n like these, you cannot use Pascal’s triangle to find the binomial coefficients, so you have to use the formula. The work you are doing now is good preparation for this.

Example 5 In the expansion of

(i)

2

x

(ii)

32x

x

5

8 , find the coefficient of

(iii)

7

x

Solution

(i)

The term in

2

x

is

The coefficient of

(ii)

The term in

x

5

is

The coefficient of

 

8

2

2

x

8

5

x

5

 

3 6

 

2

x

is 81648.

  

3

3

 

2 x

is 48384.

2

5

8 729

1 2

7

81648 x

2

8 6

7

1 3

2

 48384 x

5

27

(iii)

The term in

7

x

is

The coefficient of

  8

7

7

x

  

3

1

 

2 x

7

is 3072.

  

8

3

 3072 x

128

7

x

4

2

x



7

32

x

5

AQA C2 Series 4 Notes and Examples

You can see more examples like this using the Flash resource Finding terms in binomial expansions . You can also look at the Binomial expansions video.

For practice in examples like the one above, try the interactive questions Finding coefficients in binomial expansions.

Approximations

If the value of x is small, then the first few terms of a binomial expansion make a good approximation. The example below shows this.

Example 6

 (i) Find the first four terms in the expansion of (1 + 2x) 30 (ii) By substituting x = 0.01, find an approximate value for 1.02 30 (iii) Compare this approximate value with the answer you get on a calculator.

Solution

(i)

(1

2

x

)

30

 

1

1

 

1

30

1

30

60

x

30

2

2

x

2 x

1740

(2

x

)

29

4

30

x

2

1

2

32480

x

2

x

3

30

3

2

30

(2

x

)

29

3

28

1

 

2

3

(ii)

(iii)

1.02

30

 

1

1

60

0.6

0.01

1740

1740

0.01

2

32480

32480

0.01

3

 

1.80648

0.0001

0.000001

1.6

0.174

0.03248

Using a calculator 1.02 30 = 1.811 The approximation is correct to two decimal places.

8

x

3