Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm trying to get a linear regression slope and intercept for a large set of huge numbers.

I'm doing this on a computer, but I keep getting overflow errors (attempting to calculate a number too large for a standard data type). I figured I'd ask this here, since it's primarily a math question.

How can I "normalize" the input set, so that I don't have an overflow? Or perhaps, there is another method for calculating the slope and intercept that wouldn't result in multiplication of all the X values, summation of X*Y, etc.

(y, x)
2103.00 @ 1233687329.20
2104.00 @ 1233687329.50
2103.00 @ 1233687329.20
2104.00 @ 1233687329.50
2105.00 @ 1233687329.80
2106.00 @ 1233687330.10
2107.00 @ 1233687330.40
2108.00 @ 1233687330.70
2109.00 @ 1233687331.00
2110.00 @ 1233687331.30
2111.00 @ 1233687331.60
2112.00 @ 1233687331.90
2113.00 @ 1233687332.20
2114.00 @ 1233687332.50
2115.00 @ 1233687332.80
2116.00 @ 1233687333.10
2117.00 @ 1233687333.40
2118.00 @ 1233687333.70
2119.00 @ 1233687334.00

For example, trying to get the slope / intercept for this data set in Excel or Numbers will just result in an error.

Is there a way to normalize the set prior to doing the regression (and after to get the right answer), or perhaps a less intensive way of getting the regression?

Update: Normalizing by subtracting from Y doesn't work.

x  (x-5)    y
1   -4  1
2   -3  2
3   -2  4

slope works fine: 1.5

intercept non-"normalized": -0.66666

intercept "normalized": 6.83333 <-- problem, can't just add 5 to intercept to get the value

share|cite|improve this question
To get the non-normalised intercept from the normalised, you need to subtract 5*slope = 7.5. – TonyK Sep 5 '11 at 11:14
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Subtract 1233687329 from each of your x values (in other words, do the change of variables $t = x - 1233687329$). Then you can change back to $x$ if you wish, although for most purposes $t$ would be a more sensible variable to use.

share|cite|improve this answer
That doesn't work for intercept. Slope will be fine, but intercept will be arbitrarily off. Take a look at my Update above. – David Sep 5 '11 at 1:20
It seems silly to talk about a $y$-intercept in a case like this, since you'd be extrapolating a long way from all of the $x$ values in your data. Microscopic errors, or just rounding, of the $y$ values will throw off your estimated intercept a long way. The least squares line passes through the point whose coordinates are the average $x$ value and the average $y$ value. Just let the slope and the average $y$ value be the things you're trying to estimate. – Michael Hardy Sep 5 '11 at 1:51
If the equation in the $(t,y)$ variables is $y = m t + b$, and $t = x - c$, then $y = m (x - c) + b = m x + (b - m c)$. So the $y$ intercept when using the $(x,y)$ variables is $b - m c$. – Robert Israel Sep 5 '11 at 7:31

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.