Google Sheets can do most of what can be done in traditional worksheets like Excel. It an be very useful for teachers and students to graph math problems like polynomials. Graphing equations like polynomials in a spreadsheet provides real world practical experience and use of technology in the classroom. We will be graphing the polynomial shown in the image below.

polynomial equation

Go to Google Drive, click the New button and select Google Sheets.

new sheet

Click on the Sheet title and give it a name.

input in the first cell

Click on the first cell in the Sheet and type the letter x.

name sheet

Click on the cell below or press the return key on the keyboard. We will be creating a set of x values that will be used in the Polynomial equation. Type -10 press the return key, type -9, and press the return key.

numbers in cells

Google Sheets can help us enter the rest of the numbers. Select the two cells with the numbers and move the mouse cursor over the blue square in the lower right corner until it changes to a plus sign.

selected cells

Drag the blue square down until we have a positive 10 value. Release the mouse periodically to see the values as they are created for each cell.

generated numbers

In cell B1 type the letter y and press the return key.

values for y

We are going to provide the formula for our equation in this cell. Type the equal sign followed by the first number in our equation.

starting the equation

The next part of the equation is the variable x. This variable is multiplied by five. To multiply these numbers type an asterisk. The asterisk is used to multiply numbers in spreadsheets and is found above the number 8 on most keyboards.

multiplication in the equation

The value for x is in cell A2, the cell on the left. Click once on cell A2 or type the cell reference A2 into the formula. The cell reference is colored orange to inform us it is a cell reference.

multiply the reference cell

The value of x in cell reference A2 is raised to the power of 4. Exponents are calculated by typing the Caret symbol. This symbol is above the number 6 on most keyboards. Type the Caret and the number 4.

exponent symbol

Type the plus symbol, followed by the number five, an asterisk and the cell reference to A2 for the value of x

multiply by cell reference

Type the Caret followed by 3 to raise the value to the power of 3.

exponent to the third power

Type the minus symbol, type the number 3, type an asterisk and reference cell A2.

multiply by another cell reference

Finish the formula by typing the plus symbol followed by the number 5, and press the return key.

finish the formula

Click once on the cell with the formula we just created. Click on the blue square in the lower right corner and drag it down to the last value for x.

result of the formula

To graph the Polynomials select the cells from A1 with the letter x to the last calculated value for y.

fromula duplicated in the column

Click on the chart button in the button bar.

chart button in the button bar

Click on the Chart types tab in the Chart Editor.

chart types tab

Scroll down and select the Scatter chart.

scatter chart

A preview of the graph will appear on the right. We need to customize this graph so it can be more useful.

points plotted

Click on the Customization tab in the Chart Editor.

chart tab options

Change the chart title.

customize chart title name

Click on the Legend options and select None.

no legend option

Scroll down to features and place a checkmark on Maximize.

maximize chart size option

Scroll down to the Horizontal section, change the Min value to -20 and the Max value to 20. The values here will need to be changed to accommodate different data sets based on different equations.

x values

Switch to the Vertical Axis.

left vertical axis option

Change the Min value to -3000. This value will need to be changed with different graphs that have different variables. The Min and Max values adjust the area of the graph that can be seen with different data sets.

min and max values

Scroll down to the bottom and change the Trendline from None to Polynomial.

polynomial trendline option

The Trendline will place a smooth Parabola above the data points for the equation. Click the Insert button.

polynomial overlay on plot points

The graph will be placed on the Sheet and it can be moved anywhere on the Sheet as needed.

polynomial chart in sheet