Machine Learning Python

How to Implement Logistic Regression with Python

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logistic regression with python binary classification

The common question you usually hear is, is Logistic Regression a Regression algorithm as the name says?

Last week I decided to run a poll over Twitter about the Logistic Regression Algorithm, and around 64.1% of the audience got the answer correctly.

In today’s tutorial, we will grasp this fundamental concept of what Logistic Regression is and how to think about it. We will also see some mathematical formulas and derivations, then a walkthrough through the algorithm’s implementation with Python from scratch. Finally, some pros and cons behind the algorithm.

To get a better understanding, continue reading.

Before continuing with the tutorial, yesterday was my birthday, and I love to thank everyone who sent birthday wishes. If you would like to support me on this cheerful day, and share the joy, I accept all kinds of gifts, God bless.

What is Logistic Regression?

As the name states, it’s one of the most poorly named algorithms in the field of machine learning. By thinking of the name, you might assume it’s one of the regression methods. However, this isn’t true. It’s a classification method.

Other than what I’ve mentioned don’t be confused, it’s one of the most widely used classification algorithms in medicine, for instance, if a patient is likely to die due to some particular pathological state. In finance, if a bank will lose a customer due to the services provided, etc.

Lastly, what I love about Logistic Regression is that, not only is it a classification method, yet, it builds perfect knowledge of what neural networks are, which we will discuss in future tutorials.

The intuition behind Logistic Regression

Before going into the tech talk behind the algorithm, let’s walk you through an example. Let’s say you want to build a machine learning model to predict if a customer is likely to cancel their monthly subscription based on the services provided to them. Having a solution is crucially vital for large subscription businesses to identify customers most at-risk of churning.

Now we want to model the probability (churn | x) “the probability the customer is likely to churn given some data about the person.

Let’s say this \( X \) feature matrix consist of \( x_{1}\)  which is the person’s age, \(x_{2}\) = monthly charges given to a person, \(x_{3}\) = internet speed plan offered. Now taking a linear combination of these feature variables provided gives us

\( w_{0}x_{0} + w_{1}x_{1} + w_{2}x_{2} + w_{3}x_{3} = W^{T} X \)

by transforming it into a vector where \( X = [1, x1, x2, x3] \)

The main issue behind the formula we have modeled above is, it isn’t a probability. It’s merely a plane, as we have seen in the tutorials related to linear regression.

Sigmoid activation function diagram
Figure 1: Sigmoid activation function

The good news is we can fix this by passing our equation through a curve called the sigmoid function (An “S-shaped curve”). Once that’s complete, we can then model our probability this way.

By taking a closer look at the weights, if the \(w_{1}\) is positively enormous, it surely will increase the probability the user is likely to churn. If \(w_{3}\) is negatively large, it’s decreasing the likelihood the user is likely to churn.

Here’s the code snippet used in visualizing the sigmoid function.

Maximum Likelihood Estimation

The question now is given our training data, how do we search for the best parameter for our \(w\) given the training data? We must define a cost function that explains how good or bad a chosen \(w\) is and for this, logistic regression uses the maximum likelihood estimate.

Which is the p(y | X, W), reads as “the probability a customer will churn given a set of parameters”.

p(churn|w) = \(\prod_{i=1}^{m} p (\hat{y_{i}} \hspace{1mm} | \hspace{1mm}x_{i}, w_{i})^{\hspace{0.2mm} y_{i}} \hspace{2mm} p(1 – \hat{y_{i}})^{\hspace{0.2mm}1 – y_{i}}\)

Given \(\hat{y} = \sigma (W^{ \hspace{0.1mm}T} \hspace{0.1mm} X)\)

Next we want to maximize this function by taking the negative log-likelihood of this function, since we can’t solve it for \(w\) as, \(w\) is wrapped inside a non-linear function.

\(L(w)\) = -log p(churn | x, w) = \( – \sum_{i=1}^{n} y_{i} \hspace{0.7mm} log \hspace{0.5mm}(\hat{y_{i}}) + (1- y_{i}) \hspace{0.5mm} log \hspace{0.5mm}({1 – \hat{y_{i}}})\)


To solve the derivative of this equation above which we need, let’s compute some steps then later plug them right into our equation.

Let’s solve for \(log(\hat{y})\):

\( log \hspace{1mm} \hat{y}\) = \( log \left (\sigma(w^{T}x) \right )\)

= \( log \left (\frac{1}{1+e^{-w^Tx}} \right ) \)

= \( log \left ( 1 \right ) \hspace{1mm} – \hspace{1mm} log \left ( 1+e^{-w^Tx} \right) \)

= \( – log \left (1+e^{-w^Tx} \right ) \)

\( \frac{\partial}{\partial w_{j}} \hspace{1mm} log \hspace{1mm} \hat{y}\) = \(\frac{x_{j} e^{-w^{T}x}}{1 + e^{-w^{T}x}}\) = \(x_{j} \left ( 1- \hat{y} \right ) \)

Let’s solve for \( log(1 – \hat{y}) \):

\( log \hspace{1mm} (1 – \hat{y}) = -w^{T}x \hspace{1mm} – \hspace{1mm} log \left ( 1+e^{-w^Tx} \right ) \)

\( \frac{\partial}{\partial w_{j}} \hspace{1mm} log \left ( 1-\hat{y} \right ) = -x_{j} + x_{j} \left (1-\hat{y} \right ) = – \hspace{1mm} \hat{y} \hspace{1mm}x_{j} \)

After we have solved for both \( log(\hat{y}) \) and \( log(1 – \hat{y}) \) then taken the partial derivative, let’s now compute the derivative of our new cost/loss function \( L(w) \) then put these values already calculated into the equation.

\( L(w)\) = \( – \sum_{m}^{i=1} y_{i} \hspace{0.7mm} log \hspace{0.5mm}(\hat{y_{i}}) + (1-y_{i}) \hspace{0.5mm} log \hspace{0.5mm}({1 – \hat{y_{i}}}) \)

\( \frac{\partial}{\partial w_{j}} \hspace{1mm} L(w_{j}) = – \sum_{i=1}^{m} y_{i} \hspace{1mm} x_{ij} \hspace{0.5mm}(1 – \hat{y}_{i}) \hspace{1mm} – \hspace{1mm}(1-y_{i}) \hspace{1mm} x_{ij} \hspace{1mm} \hat{y_{i}} \)

\(\frac{\partial}{\partial w_{j}} \hspace{1mm} L(w_{j})\) = \(– \sum_{i=1}^{m} \left ( y_{i} \hspace{1mm} x_{ij} \hspace{1mm} – \hspace{1mm}y_{i} \hspace{0.5mm} x_{ij} \hspace{0.5mm} \hat{y_{i}} \hspace{1mm} – \hspace{1mm} x_{ij} \hat{y_{i}} \hspace{1mm} + \hspace{1mm} y_{i} \hspace{0.5mm} x_{ij} \hat{y_{i}} \right ) \)

\( \frac{\partial}{\partial w_{j}} \hspace{1mm} L(w_{j}) = \sum_{i=1}^{m} \left (\hat{y_{i}} – y_{i} \hspace{1mm} \right)x_{ij} \)

Now writing a vectorized version of the result above will transform into:

\( \frac{\partial}{\partial w} \hspace{1mm} L(w) = X^{T} \left ( \hat{y} – y \hspace{1mm} \right) \)

Implementing Logistic Regression with Python

Now that we understand the essential concepts behind logistic regression let’s implement this in Python on a randomized data sample.

Open up a brand new file, name it, and insert the following code:

Let’s begin by importing our needed Python libraries from NumPy, SeabornSkLearnand Matplotlib.

Next, let’s define the sigmoid activation function we have discussed above.

Within the logistic_regression function we have provided an extra thorough evaluation of this area, in this tutorial.

The only difference within this section of the code is the calculation done when computing the cost function. Rather than using the mean squared error as discussed when working with Linear Regression, we use the maximum likelihood estimation.

For the final step, to walk you through what goes on within the main function, we generated a 2D classification problem on line 74 and 75.

Within line 78 and 79, we called the logistic regression function and passed in as arguments the learning rate (alpha) and the number of iterations (epochs).

The last block of code from lines 81 – 99 helps envision how the line fits the data-points and the cost function as it changes within each iteration.

To visualize the plots, you can execute the following command:

logistic regression with python binary classification
Figure 2: Learning the classification decision boundary using Gradient Descent.

logistic regression with python binary classification training loss
Figure 3: The cost function associated with Gradient Descent. Cost continues to decrease as we allow more epochs to pass.

If you’ve enjoyed the tutorial up until now, you should click on the “Click to Tweet Button” below to share on Twitter. 😉

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Pros behind Logistic Regression

Some interesting things I find fascinating about this algorithm are:

  1. It’s highly interpretable due to how some feature vectors can explain the output of the model
  2. The number of parameters is simply the number of features
  3. It’s used for binary classification problems
  4. It performs well on linearly separable classes
  5. Generalize to multi-class classification
  6. An excellent introduction to neural networks
  7. Computationally efficient using gradient descent.

Cons behind Logistic Regression

However, besides every benefit of the algorithm, they are always some drawbacks such as:

  1. The performance isn’t as outstanding as the best performing model compared to random forest, support vector machines, XGBoost classifier, etc. However, if it fits your problem well, then surely go with it.


In this post, you discovered the basic concept behind logistic regression and clarified examples, formulas and equations, python script, and some pros and cons behind the algorithm.

Do you have any questions about Logistic Regression or this post? Leave a comment and ask your question. I’ll do my best to answer.

Further Reading

We have listed some useful resources below if you thirst for more reading.



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