# CNNs, Part 2: Training a Convolutional Neural Network

In this post, we’re going to do a deep-dive on something most introductions to Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs) lack: how to train a CNN, including deriving gradients, implementing backprop from scratch (using only numpy), and ultimately building a full training pipeline!

This post assumes a basic knowledge of CNNs. My introduction to CNNs (Part 1 of this series) covers everything you need to know, so I’d highly recommend reading that first. If you’re here because you’ve already read Part 1, welcome back!

Parts of this post also assume a basic knowledge of multivariable calculus. You can skip those sections if you want, but I recommend reading them even if you don’t understand everything. We’ll incrementally write code as we derive results, and even a surface-level understanding can be helpful.

Buckle up! Time to get into it.

## 1. Setting the Stage

We’ll pick back up where Part 1 of this series left off. We were using a CNN to tackle the MNIST handwritten digit classification problem:

Our (simple) CNN consisted of a Conv layer, a Max Pooling layer, and a Softmax layer. Here’s that diagram of our CNN again: Our CNN takes a 28×28 grayscale MNIST image and outputs 10 probabilities, 1 for each digit.

We’d written 3 classes, one for each layer: Conv3x3, MaxPool, and Softmax. Each class implemented a forward() method that we used to build the forward pass of the CNN:

conv = Conv3x3(8)
pool = MaxPool2()
softmax = Softmax(13 * 13 * 8, 10)

def forward(image, label):
'''
Completes a forward pass of the CNN and calculates the accuracy and
cross-entropy loss.
- image is a 2d numpy array
- label is a digit
'''

out = conv.forward((image / 255) - 0.5)
out = pool.forward(out)
out = softmax.forward(out)

loss = -np.log(out[label])
acc = 1 if np.argmax(out) == label else 0

return out, loss, acc

You can view the code or run the CNN in your browser. It’s also available on Github.

Here’s what the output of our CNN looks like right now:

MNIST CNN initialized!
[Step 100] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 2.302 | Accuracy: 11%
[Step 200] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 2.302 | Accuracy: 8%
[Step 300] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 2.302 | Accuracy: 3%
[Step 400] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 2.302 | Accuracy: 12%

Obviously, we’d like to do better than 10% accuracy… let’s teach this CNN a lesson.

## 2. Training Overview

Training a neural network typically consists of two phases:

1. A forward phase, where the input is passed completely through the network.
2. A backward phase, where gradients are backpropagated (backprop) and weights are updated.

We’ll follow this pattern to train our CNN. There are also two major implementation-specific ideas we’ll use:

• During the forward phase, each layer will cache any data (like inputs, intermediate values, etc) it’ll need for the backward phase. This means that any backward phase must be preceded by a corresponding forward phase.
• During the backward phase, each layer will receive a gradient and also return a gradient. It will receive the gradient of loss with respect to its outputs (
$frac{partial L}{partial text{out}}$

$frac{partial L}{partial text{in}}$

These two ideas will help keep our training implementation clean and organized. The best way to see why is probably by looking at code. Training our CNN will ultimately look something like this:


out = conv.forward((image / 255) - 0.5)
out = pool.forward(out)
out = softmax.forward(out)

gradient = conv.backprop(gradient)

See how nice and clean that looks? Now imagine building a network with 50 layers instead of 3 – it’s even more valuable then to have good systems in place.

## 3. Backprop: Softmax

We’ll start our way from the end and work our way towards the beginning, since that’s how backprop works. First, recall the cross-entropy loss:

$L = -ln(p_c)$

where

$p_c$

$c$

(in other words, what digit our current image actually is).

Want a longer explanation? Read the Cross-Entropy Loss section of Part 1 of my CNNs series.

The first thing we need to calculate is the input to the Softmax layer’s backward phase,

$frac{partial L}{partial out_s}$

$out_s$

$p_i$

$frac{partial L}{partial out_s(i)} =$
begin{cases}
0 & text{if $i neq c$} \
-frac{1}{p_i} & text{if $i = c$} \
end{cases}

That’s our initial gradient you saw referenced above:


gradient[label] = -1 / out[label]

We’re almost ready to implement our first backward phase – we just need to first perform the forward phase caching we discussed earlier:

class Softmax:

def forward(self, input):
'''
Performs a forward pass of the softmax layer using the given input.
Returns a 1d numpy array containing the respective probability values.
- input can be any array with any dimensions.
'''
self.last_input_shape = input.shape
input = input.flatten()
self.last_input = input
input_len, nodes = self.weights.shape

totals = np.dot(input, self.weights) + self.biases
self.last_totals = totals
exp = np.exp(totals)
return exp / np.sum(exp, axis=0)

We cache 3 things here that will be useful for implementing the backward phase:

• The input’s shape before we flatten it.
• The input after we flatten it.
• The totals, which are the values passed in to the softmax activation.

With that out of the way, we can start deriving the gradients for the backprop phase. We’ve already derived the input to the Softmax backward phase:

$frac{partial L}{partial out_s}$

$frac{partial L}{partial out_s}$

$c$

, the correct class. That means that we can ignore everything but

$out_s(c)$

First, let’s calculate the gradient of

$out_s(c)$

$t_i$

$i$

. Then we can write

$out_s(c)$

$out_s(c) = frac{e^{t_c}}{sum_i e^{t_i}} = frac{e^{t_c}}{S}$

where

$S = sum_i e^{t_i}$

You should recognize the equation above from the Softmax section in Part 1 of this series.

Now, consider some class

$k$

such that

$k neq c$

$out_s(c)$

$out_s(c) = e^{t_c} S^{-1}$

and use Chain Rule to derive:

begin{aligned}
frac{partial out_s(c)}{partial t_k} &= -e^{t_c} S^{-2} (frac{partial S}{partial t_k}) \
&= -e^{t_c} S^{-2} (e^{t_k}) \
&= boxed{frac{-e^{t_c} e^{t_k}}{S^2}} \
end{aligned}

Remember, that was assuming

$k neq c$

$c$

, this time using Quotient Rule:

begin{aligned}
frac{partial out_s(c)}{partial t_c} &= frac{S e^{t_c} – e^{t_c} frac{partial S}{partial t_c}}{S^2} \
&= frac{Se^{t_c} – e^{t_c}e^{t_c}}{S^2} \
&= boxed{frac{e^{t_c} (S – e^{t_c})}{S^2}} \
end{aligned}

Phew. That was the hardest bit of calculus in this entire post – it only gets easier from here! Let’s start implementing this:

class Softmax:

def backprop(self, d_L_d_out):
'''
Performs a backward pass of the softmax layer.
Returns the loss gradient for this layer's inputs.
- d_L_d_out is the loss gradient for this layer's outputs.
'''

continue

t_exp = np.exp(self.last_totals)

S = np.sum(t_exp)

d_out_d_t = -t_exp[i] * t_exp / (S ** 2)
d_out_d_t[i] = t_exp[i] * (S - t_exp[i]) / (S ** 2)



Remember how

$frac{partial L}{partial out_s}$

$c$

? We start by looking for

$c$

by looking for a nonzero gradient in d_L_d_out. Once we find that, we calculate the gradient

$frac{partial out_s(i)}{partial t}$

$frac{partial out_s(k)}{partial t} =$
begin{cases}
frac{-e^{t_c} e^{t_k}}{S^2} & text{if $k neq c$} \
frac{e^{t_c} (S – e^{t_c})}{S^2} & text{if $k = c$} \
end{cases}

Let’s keep going. We ultimately want the gradients of loss against weights, biases, and input:

• We’ll use the weights gradient,
$frac{partial L}{partial w}$

• We’ll use the biases gradient,
$frac{partial L}{partial b}$

• We’ll return the input gradient,
$frac{partial L}{partial input}$

To calculate those 3 loss gradients, we first need to derive 3 more results: the gradients of totals against weights, biases, and input. The relevant equation here is:

$t = w * input + b$

$frac{partial t}{partial w} = input$

$frac{partial t}{partial b} = 1$

$frac{partial t}{partial input} = w$

Putting everything together:

$frac{partial L}{partial w} = frac{partial L}{partial out} * frac{partial out}{partial t} * frac{partial t}{partial w}$

$frac{partial L}{partial b} = frac{partial L}{partial out} * frac{partial out}{partial t} * frac{partial t}{partial b}$

$frac{partial L}{partial input} = frac{partial L}{partial out} * frac{partial out}{partial t} * frac{partial t}{partial input}$

Putting this into code is a little less straightforward:

class Softmax:

def backprop(self, d_L_d_out):
'''
Performs a backward pass of the softmax layer.
Returns the loss gradient for this layer's inputs.
- d_L_d_out is the loss gradient for this layer's outputs.
'''

continue

t_exp = np.exp(self.last_totals)

S = np.sum(t_exp)

d_out_d_t = -t_exp[i] * t_exp / (S ** 2)
d_out_d_t[i] = t_exp[i] * (S - t_exp[i]) / (S ** 2)

d_t_d_w = self.last_input      d_t_d_b = 1      d_t_d_inputs = self.weights             d_L_d_t = gradient * d_out_d_t             d_L_d_w = d_t_d_w[np.newaxis].T @ d_L_d_t[np.newaxis]      d_L_d_b = d_L_d_t * d_t_d_b      d_L_d_inputs = d_t_d_inputs @ d_L_d_t


First, we pre-calculate d_L_d_t since we’ll use it several times. Then, we calculate each gradient:

• d_L_d_w: We need 2d arrays to do matrix multiplication (@), but d_t_d_w and d_L_d_t are 1d arrays. np.newaxis lets us easily create a new axis of length one, so we end up multiplying matrices with dimensions (input_len, 1) and (1, nodes). Thus, the final result for d_L_d_w will have shape (input_len, nodes), which is the same as self.weights!
• d_L_d_b: This one is straightforward, since d_t_d_b is 1.
• d_L_d_inputs: We multiply matrices with dimensions (input_len, nodes) and (nodes, 1) to get a result with length input_len.

Try working through small examples of the calculations above, especially the matrix multiplications for d_L_d_w and d_L_d_inputs. That’s the best way to understand why this code correctly computes the gradients.

With all the gradients computed, all that’s left is to actually train the Softmax layer! We’ll update the weights and bias using Stochastic Gradient Descent (SGD) just like we did in my introduction to Neural Networks and then return d_L_d_inputs:

class Softmax

def backprop(self, d_L_d_out, learn_rate):    '''
Performs a backward pass of the softmax layer.
Returns the loss gradient for this layer's inputs.
- d_L_d_out is the loss gradient for this layer's outputs.
- learn_rate is a float    '''

continue

t_exp = np.exp(self.last_totals)

S = np.sum(t_exp)

d_out_d_t = -t_exp[i] * t_exp / (S ** 2)
d_out_d_t[i] = t_exp[i] * (S - t_exp[i]) / (S ** 2)

d_t_d_w = self.last_input
d_t_d_b = 1
d_t_d_inputs = self.weights

d_L_d_w = d_t_d_w[np.newaxis].T @ d_L_d_t[np.newaxis]
d_L_d_b = d_L_d_t * d_t_d_b
d_L_d_inputs = d_t_d_inputs @ d_L_d_t

self.weights -= learn_rate * d_L_d_w      self.biases -= learn_rate * d_L_d_b       return d_L_d_inputs.reshape(self.last_input_shape)

Notice that we added a learn_rate parameter that controls how fast we update our weights. Also, we have to reshape() before returning d_L_d_inputs because we flattened the input during our forward pass:

class Softmax:

def forward(self, input):
'''
Performs a forward pass of the softmax layer using the given input.
Returns a 1d numpy array containing the respective probability values.
- input can be any array with any dimensions.
'''
self.last_input_shape = input.shape

input = input.flatten()    self.last_input = input



Reshaping to last_input_shape ensures that this layer returns gradients for its input in the same format that the input was originally given to it.

### Test Drive: Softmax Backprop

We’ve finished our first backprop implementation! Let’s quickly test it to see if it’s any good. We’ll start implementing a train() method in our cnn.py file from Part 1:



def forward(image, label):

def train(im, label, lr=.005):
'''
Completes a full training step on the given image and label.
Returns the cross-entropy loss and accuracy.
- image is a 2d numpy array
- label is a digit
- lr is the learning rate
'''

out, loss, acc = forward(im, label)

return loss, acc

print('MNIST CNN initialized!')

loss = 0
num_correct = 0
for i, (im, label) in enumerate(zip(train_images, train_labels)):
if i > 0 and i % 99 == 0:
print(
'[Step %d] Past 100 steps: Average Loss %.3f | Accuracy: %d%%' %
(i + 1, loss / 100, num_correct)
)
loss = 0
num_correct = 0

l, acc = train(im, label)
loss += l
num_correct += acc

Running this gives results similar to:

MNIST CNN initialized!
[Step 100] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 2.239 | Accuracy: 18%
[Step 200] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 2.140 | Accuracy: 32%
[Step 300] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.998 | Accuracy: 48%
[Step 400] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.861 | Accuracy: 59%
[Step 500] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.789 | Accuracy: 56%
[Step 600] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.809 | Accuracy: 48%
[Step 700] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.718 | Accuracy: 63%
[Step 800] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.588 | Accuracy: 69%
[Step 900] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.509 | Accuracy: 71%
[Step 1000] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.481 | Accuracy: 70%

The loss is going down and the accuracy is going up – our CNN is already learning!

## 4. Backprop: Max Pooling

A Max Pooling layer can’t be trained because it doesn’t actually have any weights, but we still need to implement a backprop() method for it to calculate gradients. We’ll start by adding forward phase caching again. All we need to cache this time is the input:

class MaxPool2:

def forward(self, input):
'''
Performs a forward pass of the maxpool layer using the given input.
Returns a 3d numpy array with dimensions (h / 2, w / 2, num_filters).
- input is a 3d numpy array with dimensions (h, w, num_filters)
'''
self.last_input = input



During the forward pass, the Max Pooling layer takes an input volume and halves its width and height dimensions by picking the max values over 2×2 blocks. The backward pass does the opposite: we’ll double the width and height of the loss gradient by assigning each gradient value to where the original max value was in its corresponding 2×2 block.

Here’s an example. Consider this forward phase for a Max Pooling layer: An example forward phase that transforms a 4×4 input to a 2×2 output

The backward phase of that same layer would look like this:

Each gradient value is assigned to where the original max value was, and every other value is zero.

Why does the backward phase for a Max Pooling layer work like this? Think about what

$frac{partial L}{partial inputs}$

$frac{partial L}{partial input} = 0$

$frac{partial output}{partial input} = 1$

$frac{partial L}{partial input} = frac{partial L}{partial output}$

We can implement this pretty quickly using the iterate_regions() helper method we wrote in Part 1. I’ll include it again as a reminder:

class MaxPool2:

def iterate_regions(self, image):
'''
Generates non-overlapping 2x2 image regions to pool over.
- image is a 2d numpy array
'''
h, w, _ = image.shape
new_h = h // 2
new_w = w // 2

for i in range(new_h):
for j in range(new_w):
im_region = image[(i * 2):(i * 2 + 2), (j * 2):(j * 2 + 2)]
yield im_region, i, j

def backprop(self, d_L_d_out):
'''
Performs a backward pass of the maxpool layer.
Returns the loss gradient for this layer's inputs.
- d_L_d_out is the loss gradient for this layer's outputs.
'''
d_L_d_input = np.zeros(self.last_input.shape)

for im_region, i, j in self.iterate_regions(self.last_input):
h, w, f = im_region.shape
amax = np.amax(im_region, axis=(0, 1))

for i2 in range(h):
for j2 in range(w):
for f2 in range(f):

if im_region[i2, j2, f2] == amax[f2]:
d_L_d_input[i * 2 + i2, j * 2 + j2, f2] = d_L_d_out[i, j, f2]

return d_L_d_input

For each pixel in each 2×2 image region in each filter, we copy the gradient from d_L_d_out to d_L_d_input if it was the max value during the forward pass.

That’s it! On to our final layer.

## 5. Backprop: Conv

We’re finally here: backpropagating through a Conv layer is the core of training a CNN. The forward phase caching is simple:

class Conv3x3

def forward(self, input):
'''
Performs a forward pass of the conv layer using the given input.
Returns a 3d numpy array with dimensions (h, w, num_filters).
- input is a 2d numpy array
'''
self.last_input = input



Reminder about our implementation: for simplicity, we assume the input to our conv layer is a 2d array. This only works for us because we use it as the first layer in our network. If we were building a bigger network that needed to use Conv3x3 multiple times, we’d have to make the input be a 3d array.

We’re primarily interested in the loss gradient for the filters in our conv layer, since we need that to update our filter weights. We already have

$frac{partial L}{partial out}$

$frac{partial out}{partial filters}$

The reality is that changing any filter weights would affect the entire output image for that filter, since every output pixel uses every pixel weight during convolution. To make this even easier to think about, let’s just think about one output pixel at a time: how would modifying a filter change the output of one specific output pixel? A 3×3 image (left) convolved with a 3×3 filter (middle) to produce a 1×1 output (right)

We have a 3×3 image convolved with a 3×3 filter of all zeros to produce a 1×1 output. What if we increased the center filter weight by 1? The output would increase by the center image value, 80: Similarly, increasing any of the other filter weights by 1 would increase the output by the value of the corresponding image pixel! This suggests that the derivative of a specific output pixel with respect to a specific filter weight is just the corresponding image pixel value. Doing the math confirms this:

begin{aligned}
text{out(i, j)} &= text{convolve(image, filter)} \
&= sum_{x=0}^3 sum_{y=0}^3 text{image}(i + x, j + y) * text{filter}(x, y) \
end{aligned}

$frac{partial text{out}(i, j)}{partial text{filter}(x, y)} = text{image}(i + x, j + y)$

We can put it all together to find the loss gradient for specific filter weights:

begin{aligned}
frac{partial L}{partial text{filter}(x, y)} &= sum_i sum_j frac{partial L}{partial text{out}(i, j)} * frac{partial text{out}(i, j)}{partial text{filter}(x, y)}
end{aligned}

We’re ready to implement backprop for our conv layer!

class Conv3x3

def backprop(self, d_L_d_out, learn_rate):
'''
Performs a backward pass of the conv layer.
- d_L_d_out is the loss gradient for this layer's outputs.
- learn_rate is a float.
'''
d_L_d_filters = np.zeros(self.filters.shape)

for im_region, i, j in self.iterate_regions(self.last_input):
for f in range(self.num_filters):
d_L_d_filters[f] += d_L_d_out[i, j, f] * im_region

self.filters -= learn_rate * d_L_d_filters

return None

We apply our derived equation by iterating over every image region / filter and incrementally building the loss gradients. Once we’ve covered everything, we update self.filters using SGD just as before. Note the comment explaining why we’re returning None – the derivation for the loss gradient of the inputs is very similar to what we just did and is left as an exercise to the reader :).

With that, we’re done! We’ve implemented a full backward pass through our CNN. Time to test it out…

## 6. Training a CNN

We’ll train our CNN for a few epochs, track its progress during training, and then test it on a separate test set. Here’s the full code:

import mnist
import numpy as np
from conv import Conv3x3
from maxpool import MaxPool2
from softmax import Softmax

train_images = mnist.train_images()[:1000]
train_labels = mnist.train_labels()[:1000]
test_images = mnist.test_images()[:1000]
test_labels = mnist.test_labels()[:1000]

conv = Conv3x3(8)
pool = MaxPool2()
softmax = Softmax(13 * 13 * 8, 10)

def forward(image, label):
'''
Completes a forward pass of the CNN and calculates the accuracy and
cross-entropy loss.
- image is a 2d numpy array
- label is a digit
'''

out = conv.forward((image / 255) - 0.5)
out = pool.forward(out)
out = softmax.forward(out)

loss = -np.log(out[label])
acc = 1 if np.argmax(out) == label else 0

return out, loss, acc

def train(im, label, lr=.005):
'''
Completes a full training step on the given image and label.
Returns the cross-entropy loss and accuracy.
- image is a 2d numpy array
- label is a digit
- lr is the learning rate
'''

out, loss, acc = forward(im, label)

return loss, acc

print('MNIST CNN initialized!')

for epoch in range(3):
print('--- Epoch %d ---' % (epoch + 1))

permutation = np.random.permutation(len(train_images))
train_images = train_images[permutation]
train_labels = train_labels[permutation]

loss = 0
num_correct = 0
for i, (im, label) in enumerate(zip(train_images, train_labels)):
if i > 0 and i % 100 == 99:
print(
'[Step %d] Past 100 steps: Average Loss %.3f | Accuracy: %d%%' %
(i + 1, loss / 100, num_correct)
)
loss = 0
num_correct = 0

l, acc = train(im, label)
loss += l
num_correct += acc

print('n--- Testing the CNN ---')
loss = 0
num_correct = 0
for im, label in zip(test_images, test_labels):
_, l, acc = forward(im, label)
loss += l
num_correct += acc

num_tests = len(test_images)
print('Test Loss:', loss / num_tests)
print('Test Accuracy:', num_correct / num_tests)

Example output from running the code:

MNIST CNN initialized!
--- Epoch 1 ---
[Step 100] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 2.254 | Accuracy: 18%
[Step 200] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 2.167 | Accuracy: 30%
[Step 300] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.676 | Accuracy: 52%
[Step 400] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 1.212 | Accuracy: 63%
[Step 500] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.949 | Accuracy: 72%
[Step 600] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.848 | Accuracy: 74%
[Step 700] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.954 | Accuracy: 68%
[Step 800] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.671 | Accuracy: 81%
[Step 900] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.923 | Accuracy: 67%
[Step 1000] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.571 | Accuracy: 83%
--- Epoch 2 ---
[Step 100] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.447 | Accuracy: 89%
[Step 200] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.401 | Accuracy: 86%
[Step 300] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.608 | Accuracy: 81%
[Step 400] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.511 | Accuracy: 83%
[Step 500] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.584 | Accuracy: 89%
[Step 600] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.782 | Accuracy: 72%
[Step 700] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.397 | Accuracy: 84%
[Step 800] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.560 | Accuracy: 80%
[Step 900] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.356 | Accuracy: 92%
[Step 1000] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.576 | Accuracy: 85%
--- Epoch 3 ---
[Step 100] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.367 | Accuracy: 89%
[Step 200] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.370 | Accuracy: 89%
[Step 300] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.464 | Accuracy: 84%
[Step 400] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.254 | Accuracy: 95%
[Step 500] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.366 | Accuracy: 89%
[Step 600] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.493 | Accuracy: 89%
[Step 700] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.390 | Accuracy: 91%
[Step 800] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.459 | Accuracy: 87%
[Step 900] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.316 | Accuracy: 92%
[Step 1000] Past 100 steps: Average Loss 0.460 | Accuracy: 87%

--- Testing the CNN ---
Test Loss: 0.5979384893783474
Test Accuracy: 0.78

Our code works! In only 3000 training steps, we went from a model with 2.3 loss and 10% accuracy to 0.6 loss and 78% accuracy.

Want to try or tinker with this code yourself? Run this CNN in your browser. It’s also available on Github.

We only used a subset of the entire MNIST dataset for this example in the interest of time – our CNN implementation isn’t particularly fast. If we wanted to train a MNIST CNN for real, we’d use an ML library like Keras. To illustrate the power of CNNs, I used Keras to implement and train the exact same CNN we just built from scratch:

import numpy as np
import mnist
from keras.models import Sequential
from keras.layers import Conv2D, MaxPooling2D, Dense, Flatten
from keras.utils import to_categorical
from keras.optimizers import SGD

train_images = mnist.train_images()
train_labels = mnist.train_labels()
test_images = mnist.test_images()
test_labels = mnist.test_labels()

train_images = (train_images / 255) - 0.5
test_images = (test_images / 255) - 0.5

train_images = np.expand_dims(train_images, axis=3)
test_images = np.expand_dims(test_images, axis=3)

model = Sequential([
Conv2D(8, 3, input_shape=(28, 28, 1), use_bias=False),
MaxPooling2D(pool_size=2),
Flatten(),
Dense(10, activation='softmax'),
])

model.compile(SGD(lr=.005), loss='categorical_crossentropy', metrics=['accuracy'])

model.fit(
train_images,
to_categorical(train_labels),
batch_size=1,
epochs=3,
validation_data=(test_images, to_categorical(test_labels)),
)

Running that code gives us results like this:

Epoch 1
loss: 0.2433 - acc: 0.9276 - val_loss: 0.1176 - val_acc: 0.9634
Epoch 2
loss: 0.1184 - acc: 0.9648 - val_loss: 0.0936 - val_acc: 0.9721
Epoch 3
loss: 0.0930 - acc: 0.9721 - val_loss: 0.0778 - val_acc: 0.9744

We achieve 97.4% test accuracy with this simple CNN! With a better CNN architecture, we could improve that even more – in this official Keras MNIST CNN example, they achieve 99.25% test accuracy after 12 epochs. That’s a really good accuracy.

All code from this post is available on Github.

## What Now?

We’re done! In this 2-part series, we did a full walkthrough of Convolutional Neural Networks, including what they are, how they work, why they’re useful, and how to train them. This is just the beginning, though. There’s a lot more you could do:

• Experiment with bigger / better CNN using proper ML libraries like Tensorflow, Keras, or PyTorch.
• Learn about using Batch Normalization with CNNs.
• Understand how Data Augmentation can be used to improve image training sets.
• Read about the ImageNet project and its famous Computer Vision contest, the ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge (ILSVRC).

I’ll be writing more about some of these topics in the future, so subscribe to my newsletter if you’re interested in reading more about them!