For many individuals, the word ‘mathematics’ is synonymous with fear and confusion—some just can’t find the formula to understand it. However, there’s a percentage of people who have allowed themselves to be captivated by the pure sciences. Julio Alberto Rios Gallego is among these math lovers: he discovered he could both easily understand mathematical concepts, and explain them to others as an eighth-grader. But, it wasn’t until 2009 that he began to grow an online community dedicated to mass education on the subject: a YouTube channel known as ‘Julioprofe’, with 835,000 subscribers.
Ríos Gallego is a civil engineer, teacher, lecturer, and ‘edutuber’ born in Cali, Colombia. His YouTube channel is searched by millions of people worldwide, as his method of explaining math concepts (for free) is popular among high school, technical, and university students. So much so, that he broke the Guinness Record for the highest attendance at a virtual math class, with an incredible 213,586 attendees.
Moving From the Classroom to Video
During his high school days, Ríos Gallego recalls that he grew his math skills and discovered his teaching vocation by observing how teacher-provided workshops resulted in a constant stream of requests for help from classmates. However, it wasn’t until he himself began to teach high school and university students that he started recording videos as a tool to strengthen his classes on Algebra and Arithmetic. “I never thought this was going to reach an international audience. My goal was to support my students—the ones I used to see in the classroom, who would tell me they hadn’t understood the classes or had skipped them, and were somehow lost on the topics,” explains Ríos Gallego.
The inspiration to start recording class workshops videos came not only from addressing students’ remaining doubts, but also from watching classes posted by universities in the United States. He was also inspired by watching videos of Juan Medina Molina, the Spanish creator of the YouTube channel, lasmatematicas.es.
The Magic Formula to Increase Subscribers
How Rios Gallego manages to grow his channel on a daily basis and to gain recognition as an edutuber, but he claims to have no special approach to gaining subscribers: “There is no secret formula. I simply explain in a very detailed step-by-step way, going through the normal development of any mathematical exercise. During class development, teachers may—often due to time constraints—skip steps. That’s where students get lost.”
Likewise, he stresses that while explaining concepts, it is often possible to make complex topics friendlier by relating them to math fundamentals that the audience may be more comfortable with. Additionally, he keeps his blackboards well-organized, always highlighting symbols, images, and numbers. “I try to make it look good; I will not do a poor presentation just to get the job done. It’s not only about what you say and how you say it… how it’s written is also essential,” says the teacher.
He is also recognized for his use of color markers, straightforward language, authenticity, emphasis on practice, and his practical demonstrations of math exercises to prove they are not complicated. His interactions on the channel show that he also values treating learners well, and showing different sides of his personality. “This is the formula: to explain everything in a very orderly way,” reveals Rios Gallego.
Using Technology as a Means to Change the Notion That Math Is Hard
Through the internet and mobile devices, technology has permeated different fields and crossed borders to reach corners of our world we never imagined it could. “The power of the internet is amazing. Seeing how the job you do from home with simple tools like a tripod, a mobile phone, and a computer, can reach places like Russia, South Korea, Japan or Africa is incredible,” says Rios Gallego, who is pleased to know his lessons are watched in other cultures without language barriers. Students can simply follow the explanation on the blackboard.
In his 12 years of sharing video content, he has received testimonials from people who’ve not only passed tests, but even become tutors after seeing his teaching. “Somebody told me: I started watching your videos and practicing. It has allowed me to discover that I do have the ability to do math and that it’s just a matter of motivation, practice, and dedication,” shares Rios Gallego.
He also recalls how his content inspired a teacher, Elsa Rangel, to launch her YouTube channel ‘ElsaMaraContable,’ dedicated to accounting topics. “It’s really nice to find those messages saying this work has given someone their confidence back, that it has brought back their passion for math, and made it easier for others to achieve their goals by passing tests and subjects. It’s a nice feeling to have a positive impact on people’s lives,” affirms Rios Gallego.
Overcoming Learning Challenges Through Readily Available Video Content
Most people think that mathematics is too complex, or that it will not be very useful in their lives, but Rios Gallego believes he has designed a method that challenges this myth. “Through this tool of video tutorials on platforms where content is always available, I think we have the opportunity to overcome those fears and to banish that myth that makes many people falsely think they are not good at mathematics,” expresses the edutuber.
Simultaneously, he stresses that one of his missions in life is to show his students the various applications of math in everyday life and not just a difficult subject limited to note-taking or solving exercises in notebooks: “Math allows us to solve practical situations and problems. For example, determining the amount of reflective aluminum paint required to waterproof a rectangular roof using its dimensions. An operation that would also involve calculating costs, crunching numbers, transferring money, estimating purchase options, and making real mathematical decisions.”
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, percentages, data, and tables, are not confined only to Rios Gallego’s blackboard. They are a part of the daily lives of millions of people who may need to use a math calculation to solve a problem, but who sometimes have a hard time due to lack of knowledge, practice or prior interest in the subject. As a result, this edutuber has created channels on various social networks to keep in touch with a wider community that needs to strengthen their mathematical proficiency. He’s also published a book, “Julioprofe: El professor youtuber (Julioprofe: the edutuber teacher)”, exploring his experience as a creator of digital educational content.