A foundation for learning


Dr. Duy Nguyen's favorite part of teaching math is seeing the sense of accomplishment his students feel after he has helped them to solve a problem.

"I had a student tell me they were so happy they took my math class, and that it was so helpful for their career. I was very happy that I could be of some help and provide the foundation that they could move to a higher level to be successful in their later studies. It's a wonderful feeling when you hear your student say that to you."

Nguyen, who joined MCLA's math department last fall, said his key objective as a college professor is to provide his students with a base on which to build further learning.

Through the use of technology, Nguyen helps students visualize solutions with a series of prepared graphics that explain various statistical and mathematical problems - such as how to determine the area of a circle - so they might better understand various math formulas. Using technology, he said, saves time that drawing on a blackboard doesn't allow.

"It can be used very quickly. They are not just memorizing, but understanding the concepts and gaining the foundation for the how and why," Nguyen said.

What's the most important thing he hopes his students learn from him?

"Sometimes students care too much about their grade and don't spend enough time learning the foundation. I just really want them to understand the basics. Then, after they take the class, they can come back and read the book to understand more on their own. I hope they can apply what they learn from my class to the classes they take next."

Nguyen's research focuses on problems related to mathematics and finance. More specifically, he is interested in applying stochastic control theory in solving optimization problems rising in finance.

"I show students the connection between finance and math. Using a math model we can predict, in some ways, what's going to happen in the stock market and which company or stock is the most likely to go up," he explained. "It's not an absolute, but shows high probability that the stock of a certain company is going to increase. And, we decide the best time to buy and sell, to maximize profit."

By attending MCLA, Nguyen said, students can maximize the amount of one-on-one time they receive from their professors. At the university where he earned his Ph.D., "We had 35 students in a class.

"It was very difficult to pay attention to all of them. Here, the class size is smaller - about 15 to 20 students. I like to do my best to help my students. I can give them more individualized attention here."

As a high school student in his native Vietnam, Nguyen was encouraged by one of his instructors to get his college education to become a teacher.

"I listened to what he said and decided to study math," he said.

After high school, Nguyen traveled to Ho Chi Minh City to study math and computer science at the University of Science, then went on to teach calculus, linear algebra and numerical analysis at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technical Education. He earned a Master of Science degree from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Georgia-Athens.