**Example 5.** The polynomial p(x) = x^{2} + 1 is irreducible.

Justification. p(x) is quadratic. Therefore if it has a non constant factor,
this factor has to be

linear. Now every linear polynomial has a root. In sum, if p(x) was reducible
then it would have

a root. But, p(x) does not have roots, because no matter what real number we
substitute for x,

x^{2} will be greater or equal than 0, and adding one will make x^{2} + 1 greater than
0. So, p(x) will

always evaluate to a positive number.

In sum, p(x) has no roots and therefore it is irreducible.

The previous example illustrates a very important test for deciding whether a
quadratic polynomial

is irreducible.

A quadratic polynomial is irreducible exactly when it has no roots . |

Use this test to justify each of the following true statements:

1. The polynomial x^{2} + 7 is irreducible.

2. The polynomial −2x^{2} − 5 is irreducible.

3. The polynomial (x − 2)^{2} + 21 is irreducible.

4. The polynomial x^{2} − 9 is reducible.

5. The polynomial (x − 2)^{2} + (x + 3)^{2 }is irreducible.

**Identifying common factors**

The most straightforward method for factoring is identifying common factors
among the terms of

a polynomial. Then we can use the distributive property, in the contracting4
direction. Let’s start

with some examples:

**Example 6.** Factor the polynomial: ax + bx.

Answer. Each of the terms of the polynomial that we have to factor has x as
factor. So we can use

the distributive property to get:

ax + bx = (a + b)x

**Example 7.** Factor: 2x^{2} − 4x^{3}.

Answer. In this case the coefficients have 2 as a common factor and the variable
parts of the two

terms have x^{2} as a common factor. So 2x^{2} is a common factor of the two terms,
and we have:

2x^{2} − 4x^{3} = 2x^{2}(1 − 2x)

In general to identify a possible common factor among the terms of a polynomial
we can follow

the following procedure:

1. Check if there is a common factor of all the coefficients. If there is such a
common factor, it

will be the coefficient of the common factor.

2. For each variable of the polynomial, check whether it occurs in all the
terms. Each variable

that occurs in all the terms will occur in the common factor, and its exponent
in the common

factor will be the smallest of the exponents in all occurrences.

Once the common factor has been identified we can find the other factor in the
factorization of the

polynomial we proceed as follows.

3. We divide every term of the original polynomial by the common factor. The
quotient will be

a term of the other factor.

**Example 8.** Factor the polynomial p(x, y, z,w) = 3x^{2}y^{3}z − 6xy^{2}z^{2} + 9x^{3}y^{2}w.

Answer. The coefficient of the common factor will be 3.

x occurs in the first term with exponent 2, in the second term with exponent 1
and in the third

term with exponent 3. So the common factor will have an x.

y occurs with exponent 3 in the first term, 2 in the second and 2 in the third.
So the common

factor will have a y^{2}.

z does not occur in the third term. So z doesn’t occur in the common factor.

w does not occur in the first (or the second) term. So w doesn’t occur in the
common factor.

In sum the common factor is 3xy^{2}.

Now we divide each term of p(x, y, z,w) with the common factor to get the terms
of the other

factor:

3xy^{2}(xyz − 2z^{2} + 3x^{2}w)

Let’s practice:

1. Factor 6x^{4}y^{3}z − 12x^{2}yz^{3} + 21x^{3}yz^{2}.

2. Factor 4xy^{2} − x^{2}y^{3} + 8x^{3}y^{4}.

3. Factor 2x^{2}y^{3} − 3x^{3}z^{4} + 5yz^{2}.

4. Factor 6yw^{3}x^{3} − 24w^{3}x^{3}y^{3} − 12w^{4}x^{2}.

5. Factor −7x^{4} − 14x^{3} + 21x^{2} + 7x.

The technique of identifying common factors can be used
any time that we have a polynomial

written as a sum of products, even if the polynomial is not in simplified
expanded form.

**Example 9.** Factor 2x(x + 3) − 7x^{5}(x + 3).

Answer. Both summands have x + 3 as a factor. So we can write:

2(x + 3) − 7x^{5}(x + 3) = (x + 3)(2 − 7x^{5})

**Example 10.** Factor (2x − 3)xy^{2} − 7(2x − 3)x^{2}.

Answer. Now we have x(2x − 3) as a common factor. So:

(2x − 3)xy^{2} − 7(2x − 3)x^{2} = x(2x − 3)(y^{2} − 7x^{2})

Often the common factor is “in disguise”, and we need to look carefully to be
able to identify

it. For example, the common factor may appear with opposite signs in different
summands:

**Example 11.** Factor x^{2}(3x + 1) + 4y(−3x − 1).

Answer. In this case (3x + 1) is a common factor, since −3x − 1 = −(3x + 1). So:

x^{2}(3x + 1) + 4y(−3x − 1) = (3x + 1)(x^{2} − 4y)

**Example 12. **Factor 3x(x − 2) + 5y(2 − x).

Answer. x − 2 is the common factor:

3x(x − 2) − 5y(2 − x) = (x − 2)(3x + 5y)

Another “disguise” to watch for, is the lack of parenthesis, sometimes the
common factor may

appear by itself: