School Notes

CSC411 Tutorial 2


In an optimization problem, our method of solving the problem will vary depending on the assumptions that we are choosing to make.

  1. Is theta (the variable being optimized) discrete or continuous?
  2. What is the domain of theta?
  3. What constraints can we put on it?

In machine learning, the theta we are solving for is the collection of params of the model.

For example, with the data (x, y), we might want to maximize P(y|x,theta). Equivalently, we can minimize

  • log P(y|x, theta).


From Calculus, we know that the minimum of f must be at a point where the partial of f w.r.t. theta = 0, in other words, where the slope of the function is zero. Since we might be dealing with more than one dimension of slope, we want the entire slope to be zero.

Recall that the gradient is the partial derivative of f with respect to each parameter x1, x2, x3, etc., so it's a vector.

Gradient Descent

Gradient descent is just the idea of adjusting the gradient of our model w.r.t. theta in an attempt to maximize the accuracy of our model for finding the correct value for y given x and theta.


Convexity is the property that if we draw a line between any two points in the function, the function will always be below that line between the two points. As long as we have this property with our model, we will know that a local minimum/maximum will be the absolute minimum/maximum.