Dr. William Yin

The 'light bulb' moment

The secret to understanding math is that there is no secret.

"The key is perseverance," says math professor Dr. William Yin.

"You keep working hard and eventually you get it."

Speaking from experience, Yin didn't start out as a 'whiz kid.'

"When I was in middle school, I was not very good at math," he admits.

Originally from Taipei in the country of Taiwan, Yin's school had 6,000 students.

"A friend of mine, who was at the top of our class, noticed me struggling. One day he gave me a book that contained a few hundred math problems and told me to work a lot of the problems."

"He says, 'If you finish this, you'll be good at (math).' So I went home, and over the weekend I worked through all of the problems.

"The next week we had a test, and I scored 100. I thought to myself, So, this is how it works.

"I quickly learned that the more you do it, the better you become at it."

After serving in the military in his home country, Yin came to the United States to study mathematics at Auburn University.

"I wanted to get out of the big city," he says. "Taipei has a population of four million people, and Auburn has 30,000."

There, Dr. Yin met his wife, Carol. Eventually, they both earned doctoral degrees in mathematics and became professors at LaGrange College.

"I've just started my 20th year here," he says.

"I like math because it's difficult; it automatically becomes a challenge. It's abstract, so it takes a while to figure things out. I really enjoy that. "I have a terrible memory, so I would be no good at literature or history. Math's intrigue inspires me and draws me in to try to figure things out."

What happens when he helps his students figure it out? When the "light bulb" comes on?

"That joy cannot be put into words," he says.

"I remind students that before their light-bulb moment, there was a period of darkness. I ask them to remember the hard work that led them to a successful outcome. Much like in life, if you really want to reach a goal, there's a period of struggling and applying effort. Eventually, you reach your objective, and words cannot replace that experience."

Dr. Yin, a black belt in karate, has taught a martial arts course at LaGrange since 1994.

He believes karate, like mathematics, requires discipline.

"You can master it if you dedicate yourself, your time and your thoughts to it. Just like math and really all aspects of life."

What differentiates LaGrange College from other institutions?

"When I first came here as a junior faculty member, senior faculty members explained to me that we meet students where they are and take them beyond what they think they can ever achieve.

"I believe that's what makes LaGrange College special. We work to help students experience transformation."

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