Delving into Non-linear Regression with Decision Trees in Python: An In-depth Coding Tutorial

Delving into Non-linear Regression with Decision Trees in Python: An In-depth Coding Tutorial


Machine learning offers a wide range of algorithms to handle different data structures and types. Decision trees stand out among these due to their adaptability, being able to process both classification and regression tasks effectively. This extensive guide will walk you through the implementation of decision trees for non-linear regression in Python, enriched with detailed coding examples.

Theoretical Foundations: Non-linear Regression and Decision Trees

Non-linear regression analysis is used to model complex relationships between a dependent variable and one or more independent variables when these relationships cannot be aptly depicted by a linear function.

Decision trees, in contrast, are a machine learning algorithm that works by segmenting data based on a series of questions. For regression tasks, these models strive to minimize the variance of the dependent variable in the subsets of data at each split.

Constructing Decision Trees for Non-linear Regression in Python

Python provides the `scikit-learn` library, a comprehensive toolkit for machine learning that includes a straightforward API for decision tree models. We’ll utilize this library to carry out non-linear regression.

Start by installing and importing the necessary library:

!pip install sklearn
from sklearn.tree import DecisionTreeRegressor

Suppose your data is stored in a Pandas dataframe, `df`. We can fit a decision tree model using `DecisionTreeRegressor`:

X = df.drop('dependent_variable', axis=1)
y = df['dependent_variable']

model = DecisionTreeRegressor(), y)

To make predictions with this model, use the `predict()` method:

predictions = model.predict(X)

Visualizing the Decision Tree

Visualizing a decision tree helps to understand the model’s decision-making process. For this, we can use the `plot_tree` method from `scikit-learn`:

from sklearn import tree


Pruning the Tree

Decision trees are prone to overfitting, especially if they’re allowed to grow too deep. To prevent overfitting, we can prune the tree, i.e., limit its depth:

model = DecisionTreeRegressor(max_depth = 5), y)

Here, `max_depth = 5` means that the tree won’t grow beyond five levels.

Evaluating the Model

Model performance can be evaluated using metrics like Mean Absolute Error (MAE) or Mean Squared Error (MSE):

from sklearn.metrics import mean_absolute_error, mean_squared_error

MAE = mean_absolute_error(y, predictions)
MSE = mean_squared_error(y, predictions)


Decision trees offer a potent and intuitive method for dealing with non-linear regression problems. With Python and the `scikit-learn` library, you can easily build, visualize, prune, and assess decision tree models, making this complex task more manageable and straightforward.

Coding Prompts for Further Exploration

1. Write Python code to perform non-linear regression with decision trees.
2. Use Python to visualize a decision tree model.
3. Implement tree pruning in Python to mitigate overfitting.
4. Evaluate the performance of a decision tree regression model in Python.
5. Optimize a decision tree model in Python for better performance.
6. Compare the performance of pruned and unpruned decision tree models in Python.
7. Implement cross-validation in Python to select the optimal pruning level for a decision tree.
8. Predict new data values using a decision tree model in Python.
9. Analyze feature importance for a decision tree model in Python.
10. Plot a decision tree model’s learning curve in Python.
11. Implement a bagged decision tree model in Python for non-linear regression.
12. Implement a Random Forest model in Python for non-linear regression and compare it to a single decision tree.
13. Use Python to implement a Gradient Boosting Machine (GBM) for non-linear regression.
14. Apply non-linear regression with decision trees in Python on a real-world dataset.
15. Visualize the residuals of a decision tree regression model in Python.

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