With bright pink hair, it’s difficult to miss Julia Jaccoud walking down the corridors of the ICM conference, always with a camera, microphone, and tripod in hand. She always wears her branded t-shirts too (this week’s shirt says Seja Curioso, ‘be curious’ in Portuguese).
Many international delegates will have seen the pink-haired woman at ICM, but she’s an internet icon in Brazil. Matemaníaca (math maniac) is a two-year-old youtube channel, with more than 47,000 followers, where Jaccoud produces weekly videos that promote the learning of math. “I wanted a fun name because math is very difficult to get people interested in. I also wanted a way to express myself,” said 24-year-old Jaccoud. Hers is the largest math-focused youtube channel in Brazil. While other math channels introduce math tricks found on major tests, the main objective of Matemaníaca is to get people interested in math.
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Recently graduated with a degree in math education at the University of São Paulo (she missed her graduation ceremony to attend ICM), Jaccoud started producing math videos because she wanted to build on relationships developed with younger students in her student teaching assignments. She also felt there was a bigger audience awaiting her online. “I’m not an alien. I’m a mathematician,” Jaccoud said. “I thought if they could talk with me and be my friends online then I could introduce young people to math.”
Her Matemaníaca journey began in 2014 when she filmed a video introducing herself and her passion for math. Her follow-up video, a tutorial on how to play Tangram, a Chinese dissection puzzle, has been viewed more than 55,000 times. Other popular video topics include Brazilian public school math olympiad (OBMEP), math-intensive careers, and a tutorial on how to use probability to guess on exams. He hair color evolves along with her video content. “My channel is like art, and that is the way I communicate,” she said.
Since her youtube premiere, the 164 videos on her channel have amassed more than 1.3 million views. Most of her viewers are men aged 18-34, but she said her female audience tends to be more engaged and passionate. Her university professors even use her videos in their classes.
At ICM 2018, Jaccoud mobilized many young volunteers with videos about the event. She has attended the international math congress every day, interviewing many of the world’s top mathematicians. Her newest video gives an overview of the World Meeting for Women in Mathematics (WM)², a satellite event held on the eve of ICM, and Jaccoud’s favorite event thus far (She dyed her hair pink to match the event’s colors).
Although Jaccoud has yet to earn a living from her online fame, she is happy to do something she loves. She launched a Padrim crowd-funding campaign this year, so her followers can directly fund her youtube channel (and so she can hire someone to edit videos). She also designs and sells her own t-shirts (the Seja Curiosa t-shirt is available here). She plans to further specialize in math communications with a masters degree.