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Beginning Machine Learning with scikit-learn

Understanding the fundamental concepts of Machine Learning

David Mertz, Ph.D.

‘Machine learning’ is simply what we call the algorithmic extraction of knowledge from data. The ability to perform complex analysis of data, moving beyond the basic tools of statistics, has been refined and developed increasingly over the last two decades. Over a similar period, Python has grown to be the premier language for data science, and scikit-learn has grown to be the main toolkit used within Python for general purpose machine learning.

This course introduces a range of fundamental concepts and techniques used throughout machine learning, using scikit-learn as the concrete library and API in which these are illustrated. This first course focuses most heavily on what is called “supervised machine learning” but also introduces a number of concepts required to understand unsupervised learning.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

  • Data cleanup and examining data's “shape”
  • Classification vs. Regression vs. Clustering
  • The scikit-learn models APIs
  • Evaluation and scoring of models
  • Hyperparameters

This training course is for you because...

  • You are an aspiring or beginning data scientist.
  • You have a comfortable intermediate-level knowledge of Python and a very basic familiarity with statistics and linear algebra.
  • You are a working programmer or student who is motivated to expand your skills to include machine learning with Python.


  • A first course in Python and/or working experience as a programmer
  • College-level basic mathematics

Course Set-up

Students should have a system with Jupyter notebooks installed, a recent version of scikit-learn, along with Pandas, NumPy, and matplotlib, and the general scientific Python tool stack.

Before class:

Before attending this course, please configure the environments you will need. Within the repository, find the file requirements.txt to install software using pip, or the file environment.yml to install software using conda.

This training material is available under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. You can find it at: https://github.com/DavidMertz/ML-Live-Beginner

Recommended Preparation

Recommended Follow-up

About your instructor

  • David Mertz was most recently a Senior Trainer and Senior Software Developer for Anaconda, Inc., in which role he created and structured its training program. He was a Director of the Python Software Foundation (PSF) for six years and remains co-chair of its Trademarks Committee and of the PSF Scientific Python Working Group. David worked for nine years with D. E. Shaw Research, some folks who built the world's fastest, highly-specialized (down to the ASICs and network layer) supercomputer for performing molecular dynamics.

    David wrote the widely read columns Charming Python and XML Matters for IBM developerWorks, short books for O'Reilly, and the Addison-Wesley book Text Processing in Python. He has spoken at multiple OSCons, PyCons, and AnacondaCon, and was invited to be a keynote speaker at PyCon-India, PyCon-UK, PyCon-ZA, PyCon Belarus, PyCon Cuba, and PyData SF.

    David is pleased to find Python becoming the default high-level language for most scientific computing projects.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Lesson 1: What is Machine Learning? (1 hour)

1.1 Difference between "Deep Learning" and other ML techniques

1.2 Overview of techniques used in Machine Learning - 1.2.1 Classification - 1.2.2 Regression - 1.2.3 Clustering - 1.2.4 Dimensionality Reduction - 1.2.5 Feature Engineering - 1.2.6 Feature Selection - 1.2.7 Categorical vs. Ordinal vs. Continuous variables - 1.2.8 One-hot encoding - 1.2.9 Hyperparameters - 1.2.10 Grid Search


Lesson 2: Exploring a data set (30 minutes)

2.1 Looking for anomalies and data integrity problems

2.2 Cleaning data

2.3 Massaging data format to be model-ready

2.4 Choosing features and a target

2.5 Train/test split


Lesson 3: Classification (30 minutes)

3.1 Choosing a model

3.2 Feature importances

3.3 Cut points in a decision tree

3.4 Comparing multiple classifiers


Lesson 4: Regression (30 minutes)

4.1 Sample data sets in scikit-learn

4.2 Linear regressors

4.3 Probabilistic regressors

4.4 Other regressors


Lesson 5: Hyperparameters (30 minutes)

5.1 Understanding hyperparameters

5.2 Manual search of parameter space

5.3 GridsearchCV

5.4 Attributes of grid search and wrapped model