Performing inference on large volumes of samples with large language models (LLMs) can be computationally and financially costly in industry and real-world use. We propose batch prompting, a simple yet effective prompting approach that enables the LLM to run inference in batches, instead of one sample at a time. Our method reduces both token and time costs while retaining downstream performance. We theoretically demonstrate that under a few-shot in-context learning setting, the inference costs decrease almost inverse linearly with the number of samples in each batch. We extensively validate the effectiveness of batch prompting on ten datasets across commonsense QA, arithmetic reasoning, and NLI/NLU: batch prompting significantly (up to 5× with six samples in batch) reduces the LLM (Codex) inference token and time costs while achieving better or comparable performance. For state-of-the-art Chat-based LLMs, e.g., GPT-3.5 and GPT-4, we show the benefits of batch prompting also hold. Further analysis shows that the number of samples in each batch and the complexity of tasks affect its performance. Moreover, batch prompting can be applied across different reasoning methods using LLMs. Our code is released at the site https://github.com/xlang-ai/batch-prompting.
Tables are often created with hierarchies, but existing works on table reasoning mainly focus on flat tables and neglect hierarchical tables. Hierarchical tables challenge numerical reasoning by complex hierarchical indexing, as well as implicit relationships of calculation and semantics. We present a new dataset, HiTab, to study question answering (QA) and natural language generation (NLG) over hierarchical tables. HiTab is a cross-domain dataset constructed from a wealth of statistical reports and Wikipedia pages, and has unique characteristics: (1) nearly all tables are hierarchical, and (2) QA pairs are not proposed by annotators from scratch, but are revised from real and meaningful sentences authored by analysts. (3) to reveal complex numerical reasoning in statistical reports, we provide fine-grained annotations of quantity and entity alignment. Experiments suggest that this HiTab presents a strong challenge for existing baselines and a valuable benchmark for future research. Targeting hierarchical structure, we devise a hierarchy-aware logical form for symbolic reasoning over tables, which shows high effectiveness. Targeting table reasoning, we leverage entity and quantity alignment to explore partially supervised training in QA and conditional generation in NLG, and largely reduce spurious predictions in QA and produce better descriptions in NLG.
Tables store rich numerical data, but numerical reasoning over tables is still a challenge. In this paper, we find that the spreadsheet formula, a commonly used language to perform computations on numerical values in spreadsheets, is a valuable supervision for numerical reasoning in tables. Considering large amounts of spreadsheets available on the web, we propose FORTAP, the first exploration to leverage spreadsheet formulas for table pretraining. Two novel self-supervised pretraining objectives are derived from formulas, numerical reference prediction (NRP) and numerical calculation prediction (NCP). While our proposed objectives are generic for encoders, to better capture spreadsheet table layouts and structures, FORTAP is built upon TUTA, the first transformer-based method for spreadsheet table pretraining with tree attention. FORTAP outperforms state-of-the-art methods by large margins on three representative datasets of formula prediction, question answering, and cell type classification, showing the great potential of leveraging formulas for table pretraining.
Existing auto-regressive pre-trained language models (PLMs) like T5 and BART, have been well applied to table question answering by UNIFIEDSKG and TAPEX, respectively, and demonstrated state-of-the-art results on multiple benchmarks. However, auto-regressive PLMs are challenged by recent emerging numerical reasoning datasets, such as TAT-QA, due to the error-prone implicit calculation. In this paper, we present TaCube, to pre-compute aggregation/arithmetic results for the table in advance, so that they are handy and readily available for PLMs to answer numerical reasoning questions. TaCube systematically and comprehensively covers a collection of computational operations over table segments. By simply concatenating TaCube to the input sequence of PLMs, it shows significant experimental effectiveness. TaCube promotes the F1 score from 49.6% to 66.2% on TAT-QA and achieves new state-of-the-art results on WikiTQ (59.6% denotation accuracy). TaCube’s improvements on numerical reasoning cases are even more notable: on TAT-QA, TaCube promotes the exact match accuracy of BART-large by 39.6% on sum, 52.5% on average, 36.6% on substraction, and 22.2% on division. We believe that TaCube is a general and portable pre-computation solution that can be potentially integrated to various numerical reasoning frameworks