Release Date: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Get to Know HFC: Dr. Rama Chidambaram helps students love math

Rama Chidambaram portrait.
HFC Mathematics instructor Dr. Rama Chidambaram brings math alive for students, and connects with them in their complex lives.

During high school, HFC mathematics professor Dr. Rama Chidambaram realized there is a difference between solving equations and learning math.

“I learned to do math from my mom at a very young age. My mom used to play all kinds of numbers games and puzzles with me when I was young. She made learning math fun. I continued to have fun learning math from excellent teachers during my elementary and middle school years,” recalled Chidambaram, a native of India who now lives in Dearborn. “I stopped learning math for the first time when I had a teacher in high school who showed us how she solved problems, but did not help us learn. She was a nice person but did not know how to teach math. This experience made me realize the difference a teacher can make in learning math. I wanted to be the teacher who helps students learn and appreciate math.”

And she is that teacher. Chidambaram has guided many HFC students from basic developmental math to complex differential equations. To take the latter class, they must have successfully completed college-level algebra, pre-calculus, calculus, and calculus II. The majority of these students have since transferred to four-year universities and have kept Chidambaram informed of their progress.

“We’re obviously doing something right at the College if developmental students are completing differential equations!” said Chidambaram. “This speaks volumes about our students and our College.”

A strong advocate for student success

Chidambaram earned her bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Madras in Chennai, India. She earned her master's degree in mathematics from the Madras campus of the Indian Institutes of Technology. She earned her Ph.D. in discrete mathematics from Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ.

Chidambaram has been in the United States for nearly 21 years. She has taught mathematics at the college level for 19 years, 14 at HFC.

“We have many talented and dedicated math faculty at the College. Each of us has our own way of caring for our students and helping them learn. It is important that students find a class that works best with their schedule and the faculty whose teaching style best suits them,” she said. “Our students come from diverse backgrounds and have complicated life situations. Despite everything else that is going on in their lives, they made education their priority and they trust us to help them learn.”

"Rama tirelessly seeks to support students by addressing both course content directly and other matters that affect student learning. It is great to have such a dedicated colleague," said HFC Mathematics Faculty Chair Scott Barnett.

HFC Dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Janice Gilliland, who has known Chidambaram for more than 14 years, also expressed admiration for her colleague.

“Dr. Rama Chidambaram joined HFC in the fall of 2008 and has been a strong advocate for student success,” said Gilliland. “She teaches at all levels in the math department and has served as chair and member of many committees that strive to provide the best learning experience for HFC students.”

Chidambaram doesn’t have a favorite math class that she likes to teach. She enjoys teaching everything from intermediate algebra to differential equations. She just likes being in the classroom with students, helping them embrace a subject that some might have preferred to avoid.

“The best part of teaching is when we see how our students who started at intermediate algebra progress through a difficult sequence of math courses to successfully complete the differential equations class,” said Chidambaram. “Students find my classes challenging and time-consuming. I try my best to provide the support they need to learn inside and outside the classroom. My classes are a good fit for students who want to learn math and are willing to take the time to learn.”