CMSC 764 | Advanced Numerical Optimization

This course is a detailed survey of optimization. Topics are mainly covered from a computational perspective, but theoretical issues are also addressed. Special emphasis will be put on scalable methods with applications in machine learning, model fitting, and image processing. There are no formal pre-requisites for this course, however students should have a strong background in applied mathematics (especially linear algebra) and computer programming.
Computational topics will include gradient methods, stochastic methods, Bayesian methods, splitting methods, interior point methods, linear programming, and methods for large matrices. Theoretical topics will include convex analysis, duality, rates of convergence, and advanced topics in linear algebra. Homework assignments will require both mathematical work on paper and implementation of algorithms.

The basics

Communications and questions for this course will be managed through the course slack channel. You can join the channel here.

Lectures will take place over zoom. The link for the lectures will be communicated through slack.

When: TuTh 11:00pm - 12:15pm       Where: online
Instructor: Tom Goldstein Office Hours: Th 12:15-1:30pm, Iribe 4212
TA: Manli Shu Office Hours: TBD
TA: Amin Ghiasi Office Hours: TBD

Final Exam: TBD

Coursework & grading

Homework will be assigned approximately once per week. Homework assignments will consist of both programming exercises and theoretical problem sets. Programming assignments will be cumulative - you will need the results of early assignments to complete assignments that are given later in the course. The completed homework assignments you turn in must represent your own work.

The approximate grade breakdown of the course will be

  • 50% homework
  • 25% midterm exam
  • 25% final exam.

I reserve the right to change the relative weighting of homework/exams at any time. Furthermore, because this course has gone online, the structure of exams will be quite different than we’ve had in the past and I’m still looking into different options.

Note: This is a PhD qualifying course for computer science.


Assignments will be distributed as Jupyter notebooks using Python 3. If you’ve never used notebooks before, you can find a tutorial here. For each assignment, you’ll turn in both a notebook, and a PDF of your completed notebook.

Homework will be turned in using Elms/Canvas. Follow this link to Elms, and then look for the course page after logging in.

Homework 1: Linear algebra review (Due Tues Feb 9)

Homework 2: More linear algebra (Due Wed Feb 24)

Homework 3: Gradients (Due Thurs March 4)
For this assignment, you’ll need to download the notebook importer, and place it in the same folder as the notebook.

Homework 4: PySmorch (Due Fri March 12th) Solutions

For this assignment, you’ll need the notebook importer, and also this utility script.

Homework 5: Convex Functions (Due Fri April 9th) Solutions

Homework 6: Gradient Methods and Duality
Solutions For this assignment, you’ll need the new version of the utility script.

Homework 7: Splitting

Lecture Slides

These slides evolve from year to year, sometimes dramatically. For this reason, slides might get updated shortly before or after a lecture.

Slides below have not been updated… Course Overview
Linear Algebra Review
Convolutions and FFT
Optimization Problems
Machine learning basics
Neural Net Design
Quadratic Forms
Convex Functions
Gradient Methods
Quasi-Newton Methods
Proximal Methods
Lagrangian Methods Random topics | MCMC code example
Linear Programming
Bonus lecture: generalization Semidefinite Programming
Interior Point Method

Book & Other Sources

All course materials are available for free online. Suggested reading material for various topics includes: