Exploring TensorFlow Code for a Multilayer Perceptron: A Deep Dive

Deep Learning has revolutionized many domains, and TensorFlow has emerged as one of the leading libraries facilitating this revolution. Developed by Google, TensorFlow provides a comprehensive and flexible platform for building and deploying machine learning models. In this post, we will explore how to implement a fundamental building block of neural networks, a Multilayer Perceptron (MLP), using TensorFlow.

Understanding Multilayer Perceptron (MLP)

A Multilayer Perceptron is a type of feedforward artificial neural network model that maps sets of input data onto a set of appropriate outputs. An MLP consists of multiple layers of nodes, each of which connects to the nodes in the following layer. These layers are often referred to as the input, hidden, and output layers. Every node, except input nodes, uses an activation function that shapes the output, often as a non-linear transformation of the sum of its inputs.

MLP utilizes a supervised learning technique called backpropagation for training. Here, the network processes inputs and forwards them layer by layer until it reaches the output layer. Then, the error between the predicted and actual output is calculated and propagated back through the system to adjust the weights.

Introducing TensorFlow

TensorFlow is a powerful open-source software library for numerical computation, with a particular emphasis on machine learning and neural networks. It provides a flexible architecture that allows easy computation deployment across a variety of platforms (CPUs, GPUs, and TPUs), and supports a suite of machine learning and deep learning models.

Setting up the Environment

Before delving into code, make sure you have the right environment set up. Python 3 is a must-have, and you will also need several Python libraries, including TensorFlow, Numpy, and Matplotlib. TensorFlow can be installed using pip with the command pip install tensorflow.

Building a Multilayer Perceptron with TensorFlow

With our environment ready, let’s start by loading a dataset to train our MLP. For simplicity, we’ll use the MNIST dataset, a set of 28×28 pixel images of handwritten digits. You can load it directly from TensorFlow’s dataset library:

mnist = tf.keras.datasets.mnist
(train_images, train_labels), (test_images, test_labels) = mnist.load_data()

We initialize our MLP with an input layer that matches our input shape, then add a few hidden layers, and finally an output layer that corresponds to our classes.

model = tf.keras.models.Sequential([
tf.keras.layers.Flatten(input_shape=(28, 28)),
tf.keras.layers.Dense(128, activation=’relu’),

The ‘relu’ activation function adds non-linearity, helping our MLP learn from complex patterns. The output layer doesn’t use an activation function as we’re using the raw output for our loss calculation.

Training the MLP

To train the model, we need to specify the optimizer and the loss function. The optimizer adjusts the model’s parameters to minimize the loss, and the loss function measures how well the model predicts the target during training. For our case, we use the Adam optimizer and Sparse Categorical Crossentropy loss:


With the model ready, we can start training. We fit the model to the data, specifying the number of epochs (iterations over the entire dataset).

model.fit(train_images, train_labels, epochs=5)

Interpreting the Results

After training, we can evaluate our model’s performance on the test set.

test_loss, test_acc = model.evaluate(test_images, test_labels, verbose=2)
print(‘\nTest accuracy:’, test_acc)

In the above code, model.evaluate returns the loss and accuracy of the model on the test dataset. These metrics help us understand how well our model generalizes to unseen data.


In this post, we dived into implementing an MLP using TensorFlow. We explored TensorFlow’s environment setup, MLP’s architecture, and how it learns from data. We also covered how to interpret the model’s performance. This fundamental understanding of MLPs and TensorFlow serves as a stepping stone towards mastering more complex neural network architectures. Happy experimenting!

References and Additional Resources

TensorFlow Official Documentation: https://www.tensorflow.org/overview/
Deep Learning by Goodfellow, Bengio, and Courville: http://www.deeplearningbook.org/