Horner scheme

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A method for obtaining the incomplete fraction and the remainder in the division of a polynomial


by a binomial , where all the coefficients lie in a certain field, e.g. in the field of complex numbers. Any polynomial can be uniquely represented in the form

where is the incomplete fraction, while is the remainder which, according to the Bezout theorem, equals . The coefficients of and are calculated by the recurrence formulas


The following table:'

<tbody> </tbody>

whose upper line is given, while the lower line is filled in accordance with the formulas (2), is used in the computations. In fact, this method is identical with the method of Ch'in Chiu-Shao employed in medieval China. At the beginning of the 19th century it was rediscovered, almost simultaneously, by W.G. Horner [1] and P. Ruffini [1].


[1] W.G. Horner, Philos. Transact. Roy. Soc. London Ser. A , 1 (1819) pp. 308–335
[2] P. Ruffini, Mem. Coronata Soc. Ital. Sci. , 9 (1802) pp. 44–526


Horner's scheme is used for the efficient evaluation of polynomials. The straightforward evaluation of for a given value by computing the powers and forming the linear combination according to (1) would require multiplications. However, by writing in the "nested" form

only (sequential) multiplications are involved. It is easily verified that using this nested representation the work consists of the computation steps given by (2). Since , the evaluation of requires instead of multiplications.


[a1] F.B. Hildebrand, "Introduction to numerical analysis" , McGraw-Hill (1974)
[a2] F. Cajori, "A history of mathematics" , Chelsea, reprint (1980)
How to Cite This Entry:
Horner scheme. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by V.N. Remeslennikov (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article