UHV assistant professor finds beauty in the universality of numbers

Ricardo Teixeira

In Ricardo Teixeira’s classroom, math isn’t just about the numbers. Sure, they’re part of it, but the lessons span far beyond the basics.

The University of Houston-Victoria assistant professor and director of the mathematics program incorporates map work, cultural lessons about his native Brazil and more into daily lectures.

As an amateur magician, he even brings a bit of illusion into the mix.

“One trick I use is I’ll select a card from the deck, and ask students, ‘What’s the probability that if I’m just guessing, I’ll get this correct?’” he said. “Or I will ask the students, ‘What’s the probability I can guess three cards in a row?’ I try to make it interesting. I want my students to enjoy it.”

Teixeira said his love of math started early on, joking that he was one of the nerdy kids who went to competitions at school. The beauty of the subject comes from the fact that it’s the same everywhere.

“If I solve a problem and X equals three, that same problem has the same answer in Germany, Brazil, Japan or anywhere I go,” he said. “That universality excites me. I think it is beautiful.”

Teixeira earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Brazil’s Universidade Federal do Ceara. He spent a number of years applying that knowledge to his work in construction.

After returning to school to further his engineering career, he knew he was destined for another path. Teixeira went on to earn a master’s degree in mathematics from his alma mater before moving on to the University of Texas at Austin to obtain his doctorate in the same subject.

During summer 2010, he made his way to UHV. It was an interesting time to join the Jaguar family, he said, explaining that the university was about to add freshmen and sophomores and he had a hands-on role in developing the incoming curriculum.

“The first time I came here, we had a discussion about which math courses should be required of students,” said Teixeira, who today also serves as director of core curriculum. “I liked being able to offer my opinion and being part of that discussion. At a bigger university, I wouldn’t have that opportunity.”

Through the years, Teixeira has witnessed phenomenal growth throughout UHV. The promising future, however, introduced challenges. His college algebra class, which sat at 20 to 30 students in fall 2010, is now maxed out at 82 students.

“It’s a big class. I wish it was smaller,” he said. “But it’s a good problem to have. We’re growing. And as we grow, we can hire more faculty and return to those smaller class sizes.”

Outside of the lecture hall, Teixeira enjoys spending time with his wife and 4-year-old daughter, and taking part in various research projects. His studies run the gamut. His research into abstract mathematics incorporates elements of virtual reality, while other projects allow him to apply mathematics to facets of biology, sports and other areas.

Teixeira said he looks forward to what the future has to offer at UHV. A partnership between the university and Victoria’s Liberty Academy allowed UHV a place to offer chemistry and physics labs for the first time in spring 2013.

A new graduate course in mathematics has students participating in research. Teixeira hopes to expand that opportunity to the undergraduate level.

“We need to get more people involved in math,” he said. “I don’t like the topic because it’s easy. I like it because it’s challenging and fun. And I want to share that with our students.”

The Faculty Feature is an online feature highlighting faculty members from each of the University of Houston-Victoria’s four schools. To nominate a faculty member, email Paula Cobler , UHV director of marketing and communications, or call her at 361-570-4350.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Allison Miles 361-570-4342