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Understanding Mean Average Precision (MAP)


In the field of information retrieval and machine learning, evaluating the performance of ranking algorithms is crucial. Mean Average Precision (MAP) is a widely used metric for assessing the quality of ranking systems, particularly in tasks such as information retrieval, recommendation systems, and object detection. This article will delve into the concept of MAP, how it works, and provide relevant coding examples to illustrate its calculation.

What is Mean Average Precision?

MAP stands for Mean Average Precision, and it is a measure used to evaluate the effectiveness of a ranking algorithm in returning relevant items from a list. Essentially, MAP quantifies how well a model ranks items in descending order of relevance, with higher-ranked items being more relevant.

In the context of information retrieval, relevance often refers to whether a user found the desired information in the top-ranked results. For example, in a search engine, the top search results should ideally be the most relevant to the user’s query. MAP helps us assess how well a search engine or recommendation system achieves this goal.

How Does MAP Work?

MAP is calculated based on the concept of Precision and Average Precision (AP).


Precision is a measure of how many relevant items were retrieved among the total number of items retrieved. It is calculated as:

In the context of ranking, precision at a given position (k) is often used, where (k) is the rank position.

Average Precision (AP):

AP is a measure of the average precision across various rank positions. To calculate AP for a single query or user, follow these steps:

  1. For each retrieved item, calculate the precision at that position if the item is relevant.
  2. Take the average of those precision values.

Mathematically, AP is defined as:


(Precision at rank k×Is item at rank k relevant?)

Mean Average Precision (MAP):

MAP takes the average of AP values across multiple queries or users. It provides a more comprehensive evaluation of the ranking algorithm’s performance.


  • (m) is the total number of queries or users.
  • (text{AP}_i) is the Average Precision for query or user (i).

Coding Example

Let’s implement MAP calculation in Python using a sample dataset. We’ll assume we have a list of queries, ranked results for each query, and ground-truth relevance information for the items. We’ll calculate the MAP score for these queries.

def average_precision(relevance_list):
    precision_sum = 0
    num_relevant = 0

    for i, relevance in enumerate(relevance_list):
        if relevance == 1:
            num_relevant += 1
            precision_sum += num_relevant / (i + 1)

    if num_relevant == 0:
        return 0

    return precision_sum / num_relevant

def mean_average_precision(queries, ranked_results, relevance_info):
    total_ap = 0

    for i, query in enumerate(queries):
        relevance_list = relevance_info[i]
        ranked_items = ranked_results[i]
        sorted_items = sorted(ranked_items, key=lambda x: -x[1])  # Sort by relevance score in descending order
        relevance_list = [relevance_list[item[0]] for item in sorted_items]
        ap = average_precision(relevance_list)
        total_ap += ap

    return total_ap / len(queries)

# Sample data
queries = ["query1", "query2", "query3"]
ranked_results = [
    [(0, 0.8), (1, 0.6), (2, 0.4), (3, 0.2)],
    [(3, 0.9), (2, 0.7), (0, 0.5), (1, 0.3)],
    [(2, 0.9), (0, 0.8), (1, 0.7), (3, 0.1)]
relevance_info = [
    [1, 0, 1, 0],
    [0, 0, 1, 1],
    [1, 1, 0, 0]

map_score = mean_average_precision(queries, ranked_results, relevance_info)
print("Mean Average Precision (MAP):", map_score)

In this example, we have three queries, their ranked results, and binary relevance information for the items (1 for relevant, 0 for irrelevant). The mean_average_precision function calculates the MAP score for these queries.


Mean Average Precision (MAP) is a crucial metric for evaluating ranking algorithms, particularly in information retrieval and recommendation systems. It provides a comprehensive assessment of how well a system ranks items by considering both precision and average precision. By understanding MAP and implementing it in your evaluation process, you can better measure the quality of your ranking algorithms and make informed decisions about their performance.

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