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Provable Advantage of Curriculum Learning on Parity Targets with Mixed Inputs

Emmanuel Abbe · Elisabetta Cornacchia · Aryo Lotfi

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #806
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[ Paper [ Poster [ OpenReview
Tue 12 Dec 3:15 p.m. PST — 5:15 p.m. PST


Experimental results have shown that curriculum learning, i.e., presenting simpler examples before more complex ones, can improve the efficiency of learning. Some recent theoretical results also showed that changing the sampling distribution can help neural networks learn parities, with formal results only for large learning rates and one-step arguments. Here we show a separation result in the number of training steps with standard (bounded) learning rates on a common sample distribution: if the data distribution is a mixture of sparse and dense inputs, there exists a regime in which a 2-layer ReLU neural network trained by a curriculum noisy-GD (or SGD) algorithm that uses sparse examples first, can learn parities of sufficiently large degree, while any fully connected neural network of possibly larger width or depth trained by noisy-GD on the unordered samples cannot learn without additional steps. We also provide experimental results supporting the qualitative separation beyond the specific regime of the theoretical results.

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