Understanding Gradient Descent

Gradient descent is an optimization algorithm used to minimize a function by iteratively moving in the direction of the steepest descent as defined by the negative of the gradient. It’s commonly used in machine learning for training models and finding the optimal parameters.

How Gradient Descent Works

The basic idea behind gradient descent can be summarized in the following steps:

  1. Initialize the parameters (weights) of the model with some arbitrary values.
  2. Calculate the gradient of the cost function with respect to each parameter. The gradient points in the direction of the steepest increase in the cost function.
  3. Update the parameters in the opposite direction of the gradient to minimize the cost function. This is done by subtracting a fraction of the gradient (scaled by a learning rate) from the current parameter values.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until convergence or for a specified number of iterations.

The learning rate is a hyperparameter that determines the size of the steps taken during each iteration of gradient descent. A larger learning rate can lead to faster convergence but may cause the algorithm to overshoot the minimum. On the other hand, a smaller learning rate may result in slower convergence but more stable behavior.

Gradient descent works well for convex and smooth functions, where the cost function has a single global minimum. However, in practice, the cost functions for many machine learning models are non-convex and may have multiple local minima. In such cases, gradient descent may converge to a local minimum instead of the global minimum.

There are different variants of gradient descent, such as stochastic gradient descent (SGD), mini-batch gradient descent, and batch gradient descent, which differ in how they compute the gradient and update the parameters.


Gradient descent is a powerful optimization algorithm widely used in machine learning for training models and finding the optimal parameters. By iteratively updating the parameters in the direction of the negative gradient, gradient descent helps minimize the cost function and improve the model’s performance.

See Also

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *