This course offers a brief introduction to the multivariate calculus required to build many common machine learning techniques. We start at the very beginning with a refresher on the “rise over run” formulation of a slope, before converting this to the formal definition of the gradient of a function. We then start to build up a set of tools for making calculus easier and faster. Next, we learn how to calculate vectors that point up hill on multidimensional surfaces and even put this into action using an interactive game. We take a look at how we can use calculus to build approximations to functions, as well as helping us to quantify how accurate we should expect those approximations to be. We also spend some time talking about where calculus comes up in the training of neural networks, before finally showing you how it is applied in linear regression models. This course is intended to offer an intuitive understanding of calculus, as well as the language necessary to look concepts up yourselves when you get stuck. Hopefully, without going into too much detail, you’ll still come away with the confidence to dive into some more focused machine learning courses in future.

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What is calculus?

Understanding calculus is central to understanding machine learning! You can think of calculus as simply a set of tools for analysing the relationship between functions and their inputs. Typically, in machine learning, we are trying to find the inputs which enable a function to best match the data.
We start this module from the basics, by recalling what a function is and where we might encounter one. Following this, we talk about the how, when sketching a function on a graph, the slope describes the rate of change off the output with respect to an input. Using this visual intuition we next derive a robust mathematical definition of a derivative, which we then use to differentiate some interesting functions. Finally, by studying a few examples, we develop four handy time saving rules that enable us to speed up differentiation for many common scenarios.