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Abstract We investigate the long-standing problem of finding a combinatorial rule for the Schubert structure constants in the $K$-theory of flag varieties (in type $A$). The Grothendieck polynomials of A. Lascoux–M.-P. Schützenberger (1982) serve as polynomial representatives for $K$-theoretic Schubert classes; however no positive rule for their multiplication is known in general. We contribute a new basis for polynomials (in $n$ variables) which we call glide polynomials, and give a positive combinatorial formula for the expansion of a Grothendieck polynomial in this basis. We then provide a positive combinatorial Littlewood–Richardson rule for expanding a product of Grothendieck polynomials in the glide basis. Our techniques easily extend to the $\beta$-Grothendieck polynomials of S. Fomin–A. Kirillov (1994), representing classes in connective $K$-theory, and we state our results in this more general context.

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