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Brazil among the world’s mathematical heavyweights

Brazil has become part of the global elite in mathematics. In January, the International Mathematical Union (IMU) approved the country’s promotion into group 5, which is composed of a restricted number of nations renowned for their excellent research in the field. The request to join the group was lodged in 2017 by the Brazilian Mathematical Society (SBM) and the Brazilian Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA), and places Brazil alongside 10 other countries known for conducting high-quality research in mathematics. “We compiled a dossier of just over 30 pages demonstrating why we should be in group 5,” says IMPA CEO Marcelo Viana. “We highlighted research, events, elementary and higher education, the International Mathematical Olympiad, and the growing popularity of the discipline in Brazil.” Founded in 1920, the IMU has some 80 member countries grouped into five categories. Brazil joined in 1954, starting in group 1 and gradually moving up through the categories. The country’s latest promotion is a reflection of the advanced level that Brazilian scientific output in the field has reached in recent years. In 2006, a year after the country moved into group 4, Brazilian mathematicians published 1,043 scientific articles (1.53% of global output in the field). Just a decade later, this figure has nearly doubled to 2,073 papers, or 2.35% of articles published in mathematics worldwide in 2016. Brazil’s acceptance into the mathematics research elite comes almost four years after Artur Ávila, a Brazilian researcher at IMPA and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), received the highest honor in mathematics: the Fields medal, awarded by the IMU. Despite advances in research, mathematics teaching in Brazil still needs to improve. The country is near the bottom of international rankings that evaluate student performance in the field.