Suppose I have a giant polynomial expression analogous to

$$ F=a_1xX^6+a_2x^2X^5+a_3x^3X^4+a_4x^4X^3+a_5x^5X^2+a_6x^6X $$

and it is true that $X \gg x$. Let it be enough for me to approximate this expression up to order $(\frac{x}{X})^3$, so that

$$ F \approx a_1xX^6+a_2x^2X^5+a_3x^3X^4. $$

What is the cleanest way to do something like this? Bear in mind that the expression is not in the neat form of the first equation.

I suppose the most obvious way would be to write a list of terms after expanding the expression and cut out every term of the form $a_ix^{i_x}X^{i_X}$ such that $i_x\geq O$ (where $O$ is the order of approximation) and $N-i_X\geq O$, but I wonder if there isn't a smarter way.

  • $\begingroup$ Is your actual polynomial homogeneous, like the one shown? A test case (in code) might help get folks to participate (e.g. Expand@Fold[FromDigits, SparseArray[{i_, j_} /; i + j == 7 :> RandomInteger[{1, 9}], {7, 7}], {x, y}]) $\endgroup$
    – Michael E2
    Jun 13, 2021 at 12:59

2 Answers 2


To make the relationship between $x$ and $X$ explicit, in the sense that we want $|x/X|\ll1$ instead of simply assuming that $x$ is small, we can set $z=x/X$ and series-expand for small $z$:

F = Sum[a[i] * x^i * X^(7 - i), {i, 6}];

Series[F /. x -> z*X, {z, 0, 3}]
(*    a[1] X^7 z + a[2] X^7 z^2 + a[3] X^7 z^3 + O[z]^4    *)

In practice this is pretty much the same as what @MichaelSeifert suggests, but behind the scenes it is more explicit about the relationship between $x$ and $X$. In more complicated situations this may make a difference.


If you only need the terms up to a given order in one of the polynomial's variables, you could just use Series and Normal:

Series[expr, {x, 0, 3}]

Series returns a result in terms of SeriesData objects, which include O[x^n] terms that allow Mathematica to keep track of the validity of the approximation. Normal takes a SeriesData object and returns just the explicit polynomial terms.


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