Reading a section on simple regression in "An Introduction to Statistical Learning with Applications in R" I got a question on residual sum of squares minimization. Quoting from the book:

... simple linear approach for predicting a quantitative response $Y$ on the basis of a single predictor variable $X$. It assumes that there is approximately a linear relationship between $X$ and $Y$ . Mathematically, we can write this linear relationship as $$Y \approx b_0 + b_1X$$ You might read $\approx$ as "is approximately modeled as".

Once we have used our coefficient parameter training data to produce estimates $\hat b_0$ and $\hat b_1$ for the model coefficients, we can predict future ... by computing $$\hat y = \hat b_0 + \hat b_1 x, $$ where $\hat y$ indicates a prediction of $Y$ on the basis of $X = x$. Here we use a hat symbol '^' to denote the estimated value for an unknown parameter or coefficient, or to denote the predicted value of the response.

In practice, $b_0$ and $b_1$ are unknown. So before we can ... make predictions, we must use data to estimate the coefficients. Let $(x_1, y_1), (x_2, y_2), . . . , (x_n, y_n)$ represent n observation pairs, each of which consists of a measurement of $X$ and a measurement of $Y$.

Let $\hat y_i = \hat b_0 + \hat b_1x_i$ be the prediction for $Y$ based on the ith value of $X$. Then $e_i = y_i - \hat y_i $ represents the ith residual ... this is the difference between the $ith$ observed response value and the $ith$ response value that is predicted by our linear model. We define the residual sum of squares $(RSS)$ as $$RSS = e^2_1 + e^2_2 + ... + e^2_n$$, or equivalently as $$ RSS = (y_1 - \hat b_0 - \hat b_1 x_1)^2 + (y_2 - b_0 - b_1 x_2 )^2 + ... + (y_n - b_0 - b_1 x_n )^2$$

The least squares approach chooses $b_0$ and $b_1$ to minimize the $RSS$. Using some calculus, one can show that the minimizers are:

$$ \hat b_1 = \frac {\sum_{i=1}^{n} (x_i - \bar{x}) (y_i - \bar{y}) } {\sum_{i=1}^{n} (x_i - \bar{x})^2} $$

$$ \hat b_0 = \hat y - \hat b_1 \bar{x} $$

$$ \hat y = \frac {1}{n} \sum_{i=1}^{n} y_i $$

$$ \hat x = \frac {1}{n} \sum_{i=1}^{n} x_i $$

So my question is: What book has a detailed calculus showing how we get the above minimizers?

Please also advise a good textbook on least squares and regression in general.

  • $\begingroup$ Show your work, maybe. This is a self-study? Coursera? $\endgroup$
    – Aksakal
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ This wiki has it. Generally, wiki is a good place to start on statistics topics. $\endgroup$
    – Aksakal
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ my favorite textbook on the subject is: "Applied Regression Models" by John Neter, William Wasserman, Michael H. Kutner $\endgroup$
    – Brad S.
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 6:10

2 Answers 2


The principle underlying least squares regression is that the sum of the squares of the errors is minimized. We can use calculus to find equations for the parameters $\beta_0$ and $\beta_1$ that minimize the sum of the squared errors, $S$.

$$S = \displaystyle\sum\limits_{i=1}^n \left(e_i \right)^2= \sum \left(y_i - \hat{y_i} \right)^2= \sum \left(y_i - \beta_0 - \beta_1x_i\right)^2$$

We want to find $\beta_0$ and $\beta_1$ that minimize the sum, $S$. We start by taking the partial derivative of $S$ with respect to $\beta_0$ and setting it to zero.

$$\frac{\partial{S}}{\partial{\beta_0}} = \sum 2\left(y_i - \beta_0 - \beta_1x_i\right)^1 (-1) = 0$$ $$\sum \left(y_i - \beta_0 - \beta_1x_i\right) = 0 $$ $$\sum \beta_0 = \sum y_i -\beta_1 \sum x_i $$ $$n\beta_0 = \sum y_i -\beta_1 \sum x_i $$ $$\beta_0 = \frac{1}{n}\sum y_i -\beta_1 \frac{1}{n}\sum x_i \tag{1}$$ $$\beta_0 = \bar y - \beta_1 \bar x \tag{*} $$

now take the partial of $S$ with respect to $\beta_1$ and set it to zero.
$$\frac{\partial{S}}{\partial{\beta_1}} = \sum 2\left(y_i - \beta_0 - \beta_1x_i\right)^1 (-x_i) = 0$$ $$\sum x_i \left(y_i - \beta_0 - \beta_1x_i\right) = 0$$ $$\sum x_iy_i - \beta_0 \sum x_i - \beta_1 \sum x_i^2 = 0 \tag{2}$$ substitute $(1)$ into $(2)$ $$\sum x_iy_i - \left( \frac{1}{n}\sum y_i -\beta_1 \frac{1}{n}\sum x_i\right) \sum x_i - \beta_1 \sum x_i^2 = 0 $$ $$\sum x_iy_i - \frac{1}{n} \sum x_i \sum y_i + \beta_1 \frac{1}{n} \left( \sum x_i \right) ^2 - \beta_1 \sum x_i^2 = 0 $$

$$\sum x_iy_i - \frac{1}{n} \sum x_i \sum y_i = - \beta_1 \frac{1}{n} \left( \sum x_i \right) ^2 + \beta_1 \sum x_i^2 $$ $$\sum x_iy_i - \frac{1}{n} \sum x_i \sum y_i = \beta_1 \left(\sum x_i^2 - \frac{1}{n} \left( \sum x_i \right) ^2 \right) $$ $$\beta_1 = \frac{\sum x_iy_i - \frac{1}{n} \sum x_i \sum y_i}{\sum x_i^2 - \frac{1}{n} \left( \sum x_i \right) ^2 } = \frac{cov(x,y)}{var(x)}\tag{*}$$

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am too lazy to edit, but @Brad S. answer for B1 is not algebraically equivalent to the one given in the book.. to get the one given in the book you would need to substitute first then take the derivative and you would get the same expression (probably because at the second expression we are not taking the derivative generally, but taking it at the specific line where b0=y_bar - b1 x_bar, making b0 here dependent on b1, unlike in the first derivative where we are taking it without specifying values for b1) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 10:55

A simpler presentation of the calculus can be done in the context of the broader multiple linear regression model, but this requires knowledge of multivariate calculus (i.e., vector calculus). In this broader setting, we have the regression model:

$$\boldsymbol{Y} = \boldsymbol{x} \boldsymbol{\beta} + \boldsymbol{\varepsilon} \quad \quad \quad \boldsymbol{\varepsilon} \sim \text{N}(\boldsymbol{0}, \sigma^2\boldsymbol{I}).$$

The corresponding maximum-likelihood estimation (MLE) problem for the regression coefficients is to maximise the conditional log-likelihood $l_\boldsymbol{x,y}(\boldsymbol{\beta}) = - n \ln \sigma - \tfrac{1}{2} || \boldsymbol{y} - \boldsymbol{x} \boldsymbol{\beta} ||^2 / \sigma^2$. Maximisation of the log-likelihood can be written equivalently as minimising the objective function:

$$F(\boldsymbol{\beta}) = || \boldsymbol{y} - \boldsymbol{x} \boldsymbol{\beta} ||^2 = (\boldsymbol{y} - \boldsymbol{x} \boldsymbol{\beta} )^\text{T} (\boldsymbol{y} - \boldsymbol{x} \boldsymbol{\beta} ) .$$

This objective function has gradiant vector and Hessian matrix given respectively by:

$$\begin{equation} \begin{aligned} \nabla F(\boldsymbol{\beta}) &= 2 [(\boldsymbol{x}^\text{T} \boldsymbol{x})\boldsymbol{\beta} - (\boldsymbol{x}^\text{T} \boldsymbol{y}) ], \\[8pt] \nabla^2 F(\boldsymbol{\beta}) &= 2 (\boldsymbol{x}^\text{T} \boldsymbol{x}). \end{aligned} \end{equation}$$

Assuming the design matrix $\boldsymbol{x}$ has full rank (i.e., its columns are linearly independent) then the Hessian matrix is positive definite and the objective is a convex function, with a unique global minimising point at its only critical point. Taking $\nabla F(\hat{\boldsymbol{\beta}} ) = \boldsymbol{0}$ to obtain the critical point (which is the global minimising value) yields the well-known OLS solution:

$$\hat{\boldsymbol{\beta}} = (\boldsymbol{x}^\text{T} \boldsymbol{x})^{-1} (\boldsymbol{x}^\text{T} \boldsymbol{y}).$$

In the case where the design matrix $\boldsymbol{x}$ is not of full rank, there are an infinite number of minimising coefficient vectors, and the problem can be solved by reducing the design matrix to remove excess variables.


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