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# CSCI 4155/6505  Assignment 1

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CSCI 4155/6505  A1
Assignment 1

Introduction
In this assignment you will use python notebooks to learn about kNN, the MNIST dataset, explore the curse
of dimensionality, and try out the decision tree classifer in the sklearn library.
Questions
[8pts total] Q1. k-Nearest Neighbours Classifier on Synthetic Data
One of the important ways of both understanding and also debugging machine learning algorithms is to
create your own, synthetic data sets. In this question you will implement a k-nearest neighbours (kNN)
classifier and evaluate it on synthetic data.
a) [2pts] Create the data set. You will “train” a kNN classifier on the following training data:
• The data is 2-dimensional points in a grid, such that the x1-coordinates and x2-coordinates both range
from −1.5 . . . 1.5, with a spacing of 0.1 between points.
• A training point, x = (x1, x2), will be classified as follows:
– Class 1 if kxk2 ≤ 1
– Class 2 otherwise
Write code that generates this dataset and displays it using a scatterplot, using different colours for each
class.
Note kxkp = (x
p
1 + x
p
2
)
1
p can be implemented by: numpy.linalg.norm([x, x], p)
b) [3pts] Implement the kNN algorithm. This may be best done using a Python class, with a train
method that takes the training data and k as input, and a predict method that takes a test example as
input and returns a class prediction. You should find the nearest neighbours by using the Euclidean distance,
kx − yk2
.
c) [1pt] Visualize the predictions. Use the matplotlib.pyplot.contourf function to display how your
kNN classifier performs on new data. To do this, evaluate your model’s predictions across a fairly fine
numpy.meshgrid, with a space of about 10−2 between points. The meshgrid can have boundaries from −1.5
to 1.5 in both coordinates. By examining multiple plots, can you say how the performance of the classifier
depends on k?
d) [1pt] Try another data set. Repeat part a), replacing the condition kxk2 ≤ 1 with kxk1 ≤ 1, and
repeat part c) on the new training data. How does the performance of the classifier change with k? (Try
some extreme values!)
e) [1pt] Continue exploring data sets. Repeat part a), replacing the condition kxk2 ≤ 1 with kxk0.4 ≤ 1,
repeat part c) with the data. Now how does the performance of the classifier change with k? Based on your
results, do you think using Euclidean distance for kNN is always the best choice?
[5pts] Q2. k-Nearest Neighbours Classifier on MNIST Data
In this question you will use the K-nearest neighbours (KNN) classifier, implemented in Q1, to classify the
MNIST images.
a) [2pts] Explore k values. Plot the classification accuracy on train and test sets by considering different
values of k in the range of 1 to 100.
1
CSCI 4155/6505 – Winter 2020 A1
b) [1pt] Explore data set size. Plot the classification accuracy on train and test sets by considering different amounts of training data (randomly select the train samples ranging from 100 to 60,000) by considering
the best value of k as obtained in part (a).
c) [2pts] Explore image resolutions. What happens if you repeat part (a) but reduce the resolution of
the data sets?
MNIST dataset: The MNIST database (Modified National Institute of Standards and Technology database)
of handwritten digits consists of a training set of 60,000 examples, and a test set of 10,000 examples. Additionally, the black and white images from NIST were size-normalized and centered to fit into a 28×28 pixel
bounding box and anti-aliased, which introduced grayscale levels.
Every line of these files consists of an image, i.e., 785 numbers between 0 and 255. The first number of each
line is the label, i.e., the digit which is depicted in the image. The following 784 numbers are the pixels of
the 28 x 28 image.
[4pts total] Q3. The Curse of Dimensionality
Taken from an assignment by Roger Grosse
This question will explore what happens to the distances between randomly sampled points as the dimension
is increased.
a) [2pts] Computing expectation in 2D. Take two continuous random variables, X and Y , sampled
from a uniform distribution over the interval [0, 1]. Let Z be the squared Euclidean distance, defined by
Z = (X − Y )
2
. Compute E[Z] and Var[Z] (this will require integration, which you can compute numerically
using scipy.integrate.dblquad). Explain the integrals that you are computing.
b) [2pts] Computing expected distances in n-d. Take two continuous random variables, X and Y ,
sampled from a uniform distribution over the unit cube in d dimensions. That is, if X = (X1, X2, . . . , Xd)
then each Xi
is uniformly sampled from [0, 1], independently from each other. The squared Euclidean distance
can be written as R = Z1+Z2+· · ·+Zd, where Zi = (Xi−Yi)
2
. Compute E[R] and Var[R]. You can write your
answers in terms of d, E[Z], and Var[Z]. Again, you may explore this question empirically/numerically.
c) [Non-marked] Compare the mean and standard deviation of R to the maximum possible distance (i.e.
the distance between opposite corners of the hypercube). How do the answers from a) and b) relate to the
claim that “in higher dimensions, most points are far away, and approximately the same distance?”
[3pts] Q4. Decision Trees
Begin by watching this online video resource about decision trees:

Use the sklearn library to run a decision tree classifier on each of the main datasets you used in the rest of
the assignment:
(a) Let Dp refer to the dataset from Question 1, for different values of p, e.g. D2 refers to the dataset
generation using the Euclidean norm, etc. Run a decision tree classifier on D1, D2, and at least 2 other
values of p.
(b) Write code (not using built-in sklearn functionality) to split MNIST the training set to get a validation
set. Then, using sklearn’s built-in DecisionTreeClassifier, write a function which tries 4-6 different
values for max depth and both information gain and Gini coefficient split criteria, and outputs the accuracies
on the train, on the validation, and on the test sets1
. What would be the meta-parameter settings that you
would normally choose? Note that usually you would not run the classifier on the test set! This is simply a
chance to experiment with (i.e. take a peek at) how the performance on the test set would change. Briefly
1That is, you can use the built-in classifier, but the validation code is your own.
2
CSCI 4155/6505 – Winter 2020 A1
summarize your observations, making sure to include clear description of any other meta-parameter choices
General Marking Notes and Tips
• You will be marked for accuracy, correctness and also clarity of presentation where relevant.
• Number each markdown cell in your notebook, so that the marker can reference their feedback to
individual cells.
• Be selective in the experimental results you present. You don’t need to present every single experiment
you carried out. It is best to summarize some of your work and present only the interesting results,
e.g. where the behaviour of the ML model behaves differently.
• In your answers, you want to demonstrate skill in using any required libraries to experiment with ML
models, and good understanding / interpretation of the results. Make it easy for the marker to see