Demystifying foundational mathematics in Artificial Intelligence

Demystifying foundational mathematics in Artificial Intelligence

Meet Dr. Nguyen Hieu Thao, Master of Artificial Intelligence lecturer and learn how he bridges the gap between mathematical theory and application in AI education.

Many consider math as something that is ‘beyond’ them. Others may admit that they are downright scared of math! But for some, this ‘science of structure, order and relation’ comes as naturally as breathing. Such is the case for Dr. Nguyen Hieu Thao, one of RMIT Vietnam’s Master of Artificial Intelligence lecturers. 

Dr. Thao was a math teacher at Can Tho University before applying for and winning a Special Overseas Student Scholarship (SOSS) from Federation University Australia in Ballarat, just over 100km outside Melbourne. Coupled with the scholarship, Dr. Thao also received a scholarship from the Australian Research Council a grant owned by Professor Alexander Kruger and was able to complete his first PhD (in Mathematics).

Soon after, Dr. Thao got a 3-year research scholarship from the German-Israeli Foundation, a grant owned by Professor Russell Luke at Göttingen University, Germany, where he also completed his second PhD in Applied Mathematics. Dr. Thao then spent 4 years in the Netherlands as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Delft Center for Systems and Control, a part of the Delft University of Technology.

But despite immense overseas experience, Dr. Thao always yearned to come back to live and work in Vietnam. In late 2021 he gladly found a position at RMIT Vietnam. 

Dr. Nguyen Hieu Thao, Master of Artificial Intelligence lecturer Dr. Nguyen Hieu Thao, Master of Artificial Intelligence lecturer

Dr. Thao now teaches Discrete Mathematics, which is, essentially, the mathematics of computers. To understand AI, one must first understand this foundational course. Dr. Thao explains, “since this is a foundation course, the students come from many different backgrounds. Some dislike or are scared of mathematics – but to help assuage their fears, when I explain a particular topic, I first show the concept from different perspectives. I use real-life examples, and showcase how, if you look, mathematics is everywhere in our daily lives. These things are familiar and relevant to us, they are not just abstract and theoretical.”

What Dr. Thao imparts is in-line with his teaching philosophy, which follows 3 principles. These are to be fair, to confirm a set of standards at the beginning of class and to remove psychological barriers of the learners.

Dr. Thao explains “to me fairness is probably the most important criterion for education and second is understanding the learning outcomes as well as the difficulty and creating a suitable baseline for the course. This baseline is fine-tuned according to the objectives of this Mathematics course, derived from the technologies that apply it. Thirdly, thoughts like "this is difficult to understand" or "that is difficult to do" are sometimes the biggest barriers that prevent us from "understanding" or "doing," and this is especially true when learning math. I approach each math topic through a series of small and concrete steps so that students can follow without being afraid or overwhelmed, especially being able to accurately identify their points of difficulty. It is my job to make them confident and comfortable in understanding and applying mathematics.”

If you are looking to become an AI professional, you too can learn from international experts in RMIT’s Master of Artificial Intelligence program. Check out the full details by clicking the button below.


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