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"Cost function" redirects here. For the economics concept of a cost function, see cost function (economics).
In mathematics, computer science and economics, optimization, or mathematical programming, refers to choosing the best element from some set of available alternatives.
In the simplest case, this means solving problems in which one seeks to minimize or maximize a real function by systematically choosing the values of real or integer variables from within an allowed set. This formulation, using a scalar, realvalued objective function, is probably the simplest example; the generalization of optimization theory and techniques to other formulations comprises a large area of applied mathematics. More generally, it means finding "best available" values of some objective function given a defined domain, including a variety of different types of objective functions and different types of domains.
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