# Sigmas and for loops

Thomas Ward February 03, 2021# Short summary

Sums and products of sequences, represented with "∑" and "∏",
respectively, can be thought of as `for`

loops, and vice versa.
For those of us who program more than we read/write math, mentally
translating them as such can make them faster and easier to understand.
A table to translate between the two is below:

Math notation | For loop |
---|---|

∑ or ∏ | `for` |

i = 1 | `i = 1` on the `for` line |

n | `i <= n` on the `for` line |

body of ∑ or ∏ | body of `for` loop |

This means for the sum of a sequence:

is equivalent to `for (i = 1; i <=n; i++) { sum += body }`

and for the product of a sequence:

is equivalent to `for (i = 1; i <=n; i++) { product *= body }`

# Sigma notation

Math in manuscripts is often daunting and, for some of us, causes
our eyes to glaze over. It really though, is just a concise way
to communicate information. Summation and products of sequences,
represented by ∑ and ∏, often take me longer than I would like to
admit to process and understand, particularly if there are multiple
nested ones. Once I had the (obvious in retrospect) "shower thought"
that ∑ and ∏ were equivalent to "for" loops in programming, they
became much easier to read. Below are some brief examples that hopefully
are helpful to others to make the same mental translation. If you see
a ∏ instead of ∑ in the literature, remember that it is the same
translation, you just need to use multiplication (`*=`

) rather than
summation (`+=`

) in the `for`

loop.

## Single sigma

Take calculating the log-probability score of a model, S(q), which is calculated by summing the log of the model's probability, q, for each observation, i:

You can translate this to a simple for loop as follows (assuming 1-based array indexing):

- S(q) becomes
`log_prob_score`

- ∑ becomes
`for`

`i = 1`

under the ∑ becomes the`i = 1`

in the`for`

line`n`

over the ∑ becomes`i <= n`

in the`for`

line- The "body" of the ∑, log(qᵢ) in this case, is the body of the
`for`

loop.

And that's it! See an example written in awk below:

```
y = get_data ;
n = lengthy ;
q = get_model_predicted_proby ;
log_prob_score = 0;
for i = 1; i <= n; i++
log_prob_score += logq[i] ;
}
print "The log prob score is", log_prob_score;
```

While a functional python version, whose structure is remarkably similar to the math notation, would be:

```
```

## Nested sigma

Nested sigmas can similarly be translated into nested `for`

loops.
Take log-pointwise-predictive-density, the Bayesian version of the
log-probability score. This needs to sum the average of the each data
observation's probability for each sample of the posterior's. Two
"each"es in the previous sentence means we will need two sigmas or `for`

loops. It's mathematically represented as:

which can translate to two `for`

loops:

- lppd(...) becomes
`lppd`

- First ∑ becomes outer
`for`

`i = 1`

under first ∑ becomes the`i = 1`

in the outer`for`

line`n`

on top of the first ∑ becomes`i <= n`

in the outer`for`

line- The "body" of the first ∑, log(...) in this case, is the body of the
outer
`for`

loop. - Second ∑ becomes inner
`for`

(and the sum will be accumulated with`sum_sample_prob`

) `s = 1`

under the second ∑ becomes the`s = 1`

in the inner`for`

line`S`

on top of the first ∑ becomes`s <= S`

in the inner`for`

line- The "body" of the second ∑, p(...) in this case, is the body of the
inner
`for`

loop

This translates to the following awk code:

```
y = get_data ;
n = lengthy ;
theta = get_posterior_samples ;
S = lengththeta
lppd = 0;
for i = 1; i <= n; i++
sum_sample_prob = 0;
for s = 1; s <= S; s++
sum_sample_prob += proby[i], theta[s] ;
}
lppd += logsum_sample_prob / S ;
}
print "The lppd is", lppd;
```

and a "make-your-eyes-bleed" not great "functional" representation in python that is more similar to the math representation:

```
```

Forget that line of code above ever existed.

# Comments, questions, input, concerns?

I hope this article helps! Please contact me with any questions or input on the article using any of the methods on my contact page.