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\(-e^{i\pi}\) to Watch: Kat Does Maths

In this series of posts, we’ll be featuring mathematical video and streaming channels from all over the internet, by speaking to the creators of the channel and asking them about what they do.

We spoke to Kat Phillips, who’s been running regular mathematical livestreams on Twitch through her channel KatDoesMaths since 2020, and has over 3,000 followers.

An image of Kat, a young white woman with long brown hair, wearing stylish glasses, a denim jacket and headphones, smiling into the camera in front of a background of mathematical equations and symbols on a green-purple fade

Channel title: KatDoesMaths
Topics covered: GCSE/A-Level maths lessons, study with me  & productivity, Day in the life of a maths PhD, Games, general silliness
Average video length: 1-2 hour livestreams
Recommended videos:  For the full breadth of content: A-Level Maths Series, 12 Hour Fundraiser, Game Stream (The Past Within)

Who are you, what is your channel about, and why did it start?

I’m Kat, a final year maths PhD Student at the University of Bath. I got interested in mathematics as a career choice thanks to some incredibly supportive teachers who enabled me to have the opportunity to go and see some Royal Institution talks while I was in school. From then on I was hooked, I liked maths in school, out of school, on Youtube, in popular science books, you name it! I knew that I wanted to do research from a young age, and as the opportunities came, I realised I also had a love of teaching and communicating too. I volunteered for a few different outreach opportunities throughout my undergraduate degree visiting schools, and volunteering at science fairs.

During lockdown in 2020, I was tutoring undergraduate mathematics for the university part time. Over this period there were lots of complaints about getting students to be engaged and I noticed that the best way to get students to participate was to allow them to use the chat function. That meant no mics or cameras, but they could talk to me and to each other through text. Obviously for me it meant talking at my computer screen just hoping the people on the other side were listening. For me this worked really well, and it became quite a natural way to engage and educate. My students were enjoying the tutorials more, and it was at that point I noticed that the structure I’d made for us mimicked Twitch.

Twitch is a livestreaming platform where typically the streamer is sharing content (be it games, music, arts & crafts, education – whatever!) and the viewers can engage through chat. After a bit of encouragement from my students, “KatDoesMaths” was born. It’s a channel that focuses on sharing the real day-to-day experience of a maths PhD student, and hopefully encourages people to learn a little maths too.

KatDoesMaths banner - pixel art image of a green chalkboard on a pink background with 'KatDoesMaths' written on it, @KatDoesMaths on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, and a drawing of a plant coming in from the the right with a cute pink ghost

Who is the intended audience for the channel? 

Typically I’d say the channel is appropriate for 16+, due to the occasional strong language, and I generally cater the conversation style towards adults. However there are absolutely no requirements for any previous maths knowledge. A lot of viewers have left full time education or studying different fields entirely. Part of the enjoyment of twitch streaming is getting to interact with audience, so if you have a curious nature, looking for chill vibes, or want to learn some maths then it’s the channel for you!

What is a typical video like?

My standard streams fall into one of three categories:

  • “Study streams” – where I’m doing my own PhD work and talking with the community about the research in real-time
  • “Office Hours” – where I take a small section of maths and explain it in an informal tutorial
  • “Puzzle Corners” – finding a loosely maths themed game and having a chill time playing through with the community!

Often, I’ll try and make sure the streams are no longer than 1-2 hours for Office hours, but study streams and game streams can go on for longer. Most recently I completed a 12-hour charity fundraiser to celebrate the second anniversary of the channel – combining maths, games, chaos and so much more! I stream at least once a week (aiming for three) during term times, and less while I’m away for work trips over the summer or visiting family in the winter.  Typically study streams will be during work hours, and educational/gaming streams outside of these, to try and reflect the needs of the audience.

What exciting plans do you have for the future? 

I think perhaps the most exciting thing for me is we’re taking KatDoesMaths on the road! Twitch will always remain my main platform, however I’ve missed the in-person outreach, so I’ll soon be joining with Education in Action to speak as part of their Physics in Action events. Online though, over the next year I’m hoping for even more collaborations with other streamers and Science Communicators, either on my channel or through guest appearances elsewhere. I’ve already collaborated with wonderful people like DrSimonClark, and Science&Sorcery, as well as taking part in the 24 Hour Maths Game Show!

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