An Introduction of Mathematics of Machine Learning

By Adil Jan 28, 2024

Machine learning has transformed numerous industries and technologies in recent years. From self-driving cars to personalized recommendations, machine learning algorithms are powering many of the most exciting innovations today. However, while these applications seem almost magical on the surface, there are complex mathematical concepts and methods underlying all machine learning approaches. Getting even a basic grasp of the key mathematical ideas in machine learning can not only help demystify how these systems work, but also enable more effective applications. This guide provides an introductory overview of some fundamental mathematical pillars that form the basis of machine learning.

A Foundation of Probability and Statistics

Machine learning algorithms must make data-driven predictions or decisions under uncertainty. As a result, probability theory and statistics are absolutely foundational to developing effective machine learning models. Some key probabilistic concepts include:

The number pi123, represented mathematically as π and approximated numerically as 3.14159, holds a special significance not just in geometry but across mathematics as a whole. With its seemingly random string of digits that goes on for infinity without repeating or settling into a pattern, pi has intrigued humanity across cultures and civilizations. The study of pi and its properties has led to new insights in number theory, calculus, analysis, and other branches of mathematics.

Bayesian Inference

Bayesian inference revolves around updating probabilities based on observed evidence. This allows machine learning models to become more certain about predictions as more data is collected. Markov chain Monte Carlo methods can sample from Bayesian models to approximate complex probability distributions.


Distributions are mathematical functions that determine the probability of different outcomes. Gaussian distributions are ubiquitous in machine learning, while Bernoulli and multinomial distributions also play a major role. Understanding distributions enables selecting appropriate models for the data.

Expected Values

Taking the average value of a distribution based on all possible outcomes is key for decision-making under uncertainty. Maximizing expected gain or minimizing expected loss drives the predictions of many machine learning algorithms.

Beyond probability, statistics provides tools like hypothesis testing, regression analysis, dimensionality reduction techniques, and more that enable machine learning algorithms to uncover insights. Statistics is crucial for evaluating model performance as well. Metrics like R-squared, F-test scores, mean squared error, precision, recall, and confusion matrices depend on statistical analysis.

Optimization Algorithms 

Most machine learning involves an optimization problem: finding model parameters that maximize or minimize an objective function. Optimization algorithms iteratively adjust parameters to get closer to optimal values. Understanding the following optimization methods provides intuition for how many machine learning models are trained:

Gradient Descent

One of the most popular optimization techniques, gradient descent efficiently minimizes loss functions by moving parameters in the direction of steepest descent based on the gradients or derivatives of the model. Variations like batch, mini-batch, and stochastic gradient descent strike different balances between speed and accuracy.

Convex Optimization

When the objective function being minimized is convex, specialized techniques like gradient descent, coordinate descent, and Newton’s method converge efficiently towards globally optimal parameters rather than getting stuck in local optima. 


Derivative-free methods like simulated annealing, genetic algorithms, and tabu search guide randomized search processes towards areas of lower loss based on metaheuristics. Though less efficient, these methods enable optimizing more complex non-convex loss functions.

Linear Algebra

Vector/matrix operations are fundamental for all but the simplest machine learning models. Having an intuitive grasp of the key mathematical concepts empowers more advanced algorithm development and there are many apps also.   

Vector Spaces

Understanding multidimensional coordinate systems establishes an algebraic framework for transforming data inputs and model parameters so that patterns and insights can be uncovered.

Matrix Factorization

Decomposing matrices via methods like eigenvalues/eigenvectors, SVD, and LU/QR factorization is key for dimensionality reduction, loss function optimization, and more.


Finding slopes and rates of change enables crucial techniques like backpropagation in neural networks, while integral calculus aids in computing probabilities and expected values.

Putting these foundational pieces together enables cutting-edge innovations like deep neural networks for natural language processing, reinforcement learning for game-playing AIs, and so much more. While no single guide can cover the full mathematical depth behind machine learning, developing an intuition for these core concepts provides a solid launch pad towards advancing machine learning applications and research.

By Adil

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