If I have the matrices:

$$W = \begin{bmatrix} w_{00} & w_{01} & w_{02} \\ w_{10} & w_{11} & w_{12} \\ w_{20} & w_{21} & w_{22}\\ w_{30} & w_{31} & w_{32} \end{bmatrix} \space \space \text{and}\space \space X = \begin{bmatrix} x_{00} & x_{01} & x_{02} & x_{03}\\ x_{10} & x_{11} & x_{12} & x_{13} \\ x_{20} & x_{21} & x_{22} & x_{23} \end{bmatrix} $$

How do I write out the derivative of $Z=XW$ with respect to the matrix $W$?

$Z$ I know is ($3 \times3$):

$\begin{bmatrix} z_{00} & z_{01} & z_{02} \\ z_{10} & z_{11} & z_{12} \\ z_{20} & z_{21} & z_{22} \end{bmatrix} $

Since $Z$ is ($3 \times 3$) is $\frac{\partial{Z}}{\partial{W}}$ a ($9 \times 12$) or ($12 \times 9$) matrix?


3 Answers 3


I think it is more appropriate in this case to work exclusively in matrix notation. Let me explain.

You have a function $f : \mathrm{Mat}_{n \times p}(\mathbb R) \times \mathrm{Mat}_{p \times m}(\mathbb R) \to \mathrm{Mat}_{n \times m}(\mathbb R)$ sending a pair of matrices $(X,Y)$ to their product $f(X,Y) \overset{def}=XY$. In terms of differential geometry, if we are given a "point" in $\mathrm{Mat}_{n \times p}(\mathbb R) \times \mathrm{Mat}_{p \times m}(\mathbb R)$ (i.e. two matrices), the tangent space is canonically isomorphic to the space itself (since it is a linear manifold) and tangent vectors are just pairs of matrices. We also have a canonical basis consisting of the $(E_{i,j},0)$ and $(0, E_{k,\ell})$ where the indices $(i,j)$ range over $(1,1),\cdots,(n,p)$ and similarly, the indices $(k,\ell)$ range over $(1,1),\cdots,(p,m)$. Using the standard definition of directional derivative, $$ \frac{\partial f}{\partial (E_{i,j},0)} = \lim_{\varepsilon \to 0} \frac{(X+\varepsilon E_{i,j})Y - XY}{\varepsilon} = \lim_{\varepsilon \to 0} \frac{\varepsilon E_{i,j}Y}{\varepsilon} = E_{i,j}Y. $$ (Feel free to skip the differential geometry blabla if you agree with the latter equation.) Similarly, you can deduce that $\frac{\partial f}{\partial (0,E_{k,l})} = XE_{k,l}$.

In the same way that the Jacobian matrix of a function $g : \mathbb R^n \to \mathbb R^m$ gives you an $m \times n$-matrix, the Jacobian matrix of the function $f$ gives us an $(np^2m) \times nm$ matrix, something quite discouraging. To enlighten us, we use the fact that our function $f$ is quadratic in the coefficients of $X$ and $Y$. Let us use the following formula to compute the "Taylor expansion" of this function at a pair of matrices $(X_0,Y_0)$: $$ XY - X_0Y_0 = (X-X_0 + X_0)(Y-Y_0 + Y_0) - X_0 Y_0 \\ = \underset{\text{Jacobian (linear) term}}{\underbrace{(X-X_0)Y_0 + X_0 (Y-Y_0)}} + \underset{\text{Hessian (quadratic) term}}{\underbrace{\frac 12 \left( \phantom{\int}\hspace{-9 pt}2(X-X_0)(Y-Y_0) \right)}} $$ This suggests that $J_f(X_0,Y_0)(X,Y) = XY_0 + X_0Y$ and $H_f(X_0,Y_0)((X,Y),(X,Y)) = 2XY$ (note that we need two pairs of matrices as arguments since the Hessian is a quadratic form, and we kept the arguments equal for the moment!). This is simply an application of the standard formula for vectors $x_0,x \in \mathbb R^n$ where $g : \mathbb R^n \to \mathbb R^m$ $$ g(x) = g(x_0) + J_g(x_0)(x-x_0) + \frac 12 H_g(x_0)(x-x_0,x-x_0) $$ The tensor here $H_g(x_0)$ is of order $3$ ; think of each coordinate of $\mathbb R^m$ has having its own Hessian matrix, and $H_g$ is those $m$ matrices patched together. If for some reason you are interested in the Hessian, note that for vectors $x_0,x, x' \in \mathbb R^n$ where $g : \mathbb R^n \to \mathbb R^m$ $$ \frac 12 H_g(x_0)(x,x') = \sum_{i,j=1}^n x_i x_j' \frac{\partial^2 g}{\partial x_i \partial x_j}(x_0) $$ so if we repeat the same idea but for our function, we get the formula $$ \frac 12 H_f(X_0,Y_0)((X,Y),(X',Y')) = \sum_{(i,j),(k',\ell')} x_{ij} y'_{k',\ell'} E_{ij} E_{k',\ell'} = \left( \sum_{(i,j)} x_{ij} E_{ij} \right) \left( \sum_{(k',\ell')} y'_{k',\ell'} E_{k',\ell'} \right) = XY'. $$ The reason why those are the only terms appearing in the sum is because for the other ones, the partial derivatives of the second order of $f$ vanish. Multiplying the above by $2$ generalizes our formula obtained via Taylor expansion (because we only had dealt with the case where $(X,Y) = (X',Y')$). In particular, the Hessian is a constant tensor of total order $3$ (i.e. does not depend on $X_0$ or $Y_0$), which is a characteristic property of quadratic functions.

To understand what "of total order $3$" means, consider this idea : if you have a vector, taking inner products with a vector of same length (a tensor of order $1$) gives you a number. If you have a matrix, taking the products with two vectors, one for each dimension of the matrix, you get back a scalar. In the case of our above Hessian, taking two vectors $(X,Y)$ and $(X',Y')$ and taking the appropriate products gives $XY'$, another vector (in the vector space $\mathrm{Mat}_{n \times m}(\mathbb R)$). See this for more on tensors.

But now that this trick is dealt with, back to the original question : what is $\frac{\partial XY}{\partial X}(X_0,Y_0)$? Come back for a moment to the definition of directional derivative. What we do in this context is consider a function $g(x,y)$ of two variables as a function of a single variable $x$ to evaluate the partial derivative at $(x_0,y_0)$. We can do the same here using the concept of Fréchet derivative instead! This also means that $\frac{\partial f}{\partial X}$ is not a number or a matrix, but a linear operator on the space of matrices corresponding to $X$. For instance, $f(X,Y) = XY$ satisfies $\frac{\partial f}{\partial X}(X_0,Y_0)(X) = XY_0$ since $$ \lim_{Z \to 0} \frac{\|(X_0+Z)Y_0 - X_0Y_0 - \frac{\partial f}{\partial X}(X_0,Y_0)(Z)\|}{\|Z\|} = \lim_{Z \to 0} \frac{\|(X_0+Z)Y_0 - X_0Y_0 - ZY_0\|}{\|Z\|} = 0. $$ (The latter is true under any choice of matrix norms.) Similarly, $\frac{\partial f}{\partial Y}(X_0,Y_0)(Y) = X_0Y$.

You can still apply the chain rule with this partial derivative, but you need to worry~; when you had a composition of functions, you multiplied the Jacobian matrices before. In this case, you need to compose the linear operators, so this might mean something a bit different in the context. For instance, if $X,Y$ are both functions of a real variable $t$, then $$ \frac{\partial X(t)Y(t)}{\partial t}(t_0) = \frac{\partial XY}{\partial X}(X(t_0),Y(t_0)) \left( \frac{\partial X(t)}{\partial t}(t_0) \right) + \frac{\partial XY}{\partial Y}(X(t_0),Y(t_0)) \left( \frac{\partial Y(t)}{\partial t}(t_0) \right) \\ = X'(t) Y(t) + X(t) Y'(t). $$ (Note that this is what you would expect!) As an exercise, using this answer, you could prove that if $X_0,Y_0$ are matrices such that $X_0Y_0$ is a well-defined square invertible matrix, then $$ \frac{\partial \det(XY)}{\partial X}(X_0,Y_0)(X) = \mathrm{tr}(\mathrm{adj}(X_0Y_0)(XY_0)) = \det(X_0Y_0) \, \mathrm{tr}( (XY_0)(X_0Y_0)^{-1}). $$

Hope that helps,


I assume that both $X$ and $W$ are both variables. Here are the simpler questions you should try:

  • Do you know how to do the matrix multiplication?
  • Can you write down $z_{00}$ in terns of $x_{ij}$ and $w_{lm}$?
  • Can you find $\partial z_{00}/\partial x_{00}$?
  • Can you generalize the argument above?
    • What is $z_{ij}$ in terms of $x_{lm}$ and $w_{pq}$?
    • Now for fixed $i,j$, can you find $$ \frac{\partial z_{ij}}{\partial x_{lm}},\quad \frac{\partial z_{ij}}{\partial w_{pq}} $$ for all possible $l,m,p,q$?
  • $\begingroup$ How do you arrange the derivative table? $\endgroup$
    – B_Miner
    Oct 9, 2016 at 18:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you don't want to use tensor notations, then you can think $Z$ as a $9\times 1$ column vector. Then you will end up with a $9\times 12$ matrix. $\endgroup$
    – user9464
    Oct 9, 2016 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ You want to take a look at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matrix_calculus $\endgroup$
    – user9464
    Oct 9, 2016 at 19:25

Here is another way to look at it.

$Z=XW=XWI=\left(X\otimes I\right)\left(W\right)$, where $I$ is the $3\times3$ identity matrix. Then \begin{align*} Z & =\sum_{i,j}w_{ij}X_{i}\otimes I_{j} \end{align*} where $X_{i}$ is the $i^{th}$ column of $X$, and $I_{j}$ is the $j^{th}$ column of $I$.

Assume \begin{align*} W & =\begin{bmatrix}w_{11} & w_{12} & w_{13}\\ w_{21} & w_{22} & w_{23}\\ w_{31} & w_{32} & w_{33}\\ w_{41} & w_{42} & w_{43} \end{bmatrix},\quad X=\begin{bmatrix}x_{11} & x_{12} & x_{13} & x_{14}\\ x_{21} & x_{22} & x_{23} & x_{24}\\ x_{31} & x_{32} & x_{33} & x_{34} \end{bmatrix}. \end{align*} Then \begin{align*} \frac{dZ}{dw_{11}} & =X_{1}\otimes I_{1}=\begin{bmatrix}x_{11}\\ x_{21}\\ x_{31} \end{bmatrix}\begin{bmatrix}1 & 0 & 0\end{bmatrix}=\begin{bmatrix}x_{11} & 0 & 0\\ x_{21} & 0 & 0\\ x_{31} & 0 & 0 \end{bmatrix}\\ \frac{dZ}{dw_{12}} & =X_{1}\otimes I_{2}=\begin{bmatrix}x_{11}\\ x_{21}\\ x_{31} \end{bmatrix}\begin{bmatrix}0 & 1 & 0\end{bmatrix}=\begin{bmatrix}0 & x_{11} & 0\\ 0 & x_{21} & 0\\ 0 & x_{31} & 0 \end{bmatrix}\\ \frac{dZ}{dw_{13}} & =X_{1}\otimes I_{3}=\begin{bmatrix}x_{11}\\ x_{21}\\ x_{31} \end{bmatrix}\begin{bmatrix}0 & 0 & 1\end{bmatrix}=\begin{bmatrix}0 & 0 & x_{11}\\ 0 & 0 & x_{21}\\ 0 & 0 & x_{31} \end{bmatrix}\\ \frac{dZ}{dw_{21}} & =X_{2}\otimes I_{1}=\begin{bmatrix}x_{12}\\ x_{22}\\ x_{32} \end{bmatrix}\begin{bmatrix}1 & 0 & 0\end{bmatrix}=\begin{bmatrix}x_{12} & 0 & 0\\ x_{22} & 0 & 0\\ x_{32} & 0 & 0 \end{bmatrix}\\ \frac{dZ}{dw_{22}} & =X_{2}\otimes I_{1}=\begin{bmatrix}x_{12}\\ x_{22}\\ x_{32} \end{bmatrix}\begin{bmatrix}0 & 1 & 0\end{bmatrix}=\begin{bmatrix}0 & x_{12} & 0\\ 0 & x_{22} & 0\\ 0 & x_{32} & 0 \end{bmatrix}\\ & \vdots \end{align*} The derivatives can be arranged as a $4\times3$ block matrix, and each block has dimension $3\times3$.


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