The Institute for Enquiring Minds will be a not-for-profit business dedicated to helping under-resourced school students improve their maths skills. Our motivating principle is that by working one-on-one with enthusiastic experts, young people can be helped to reset their mathematical self-belief and expectations of success.
We are a community based volunteer initiative looking to provide a range of free, high-quality, mathematics-focused support to students aged 8-18. Although we would like to see the project expand to cover other areas of Melbourne and beyond, our initial focus is on Brunswick and the surrounding suburbs. This is a vibrant, diverse, inner city community with a high density of university students and academics as well as a great many young people for whom our programs could be life changing.
Central to our mission will be our mathematical mentoring program. Adults, so passionate about mathematics and education that they are willing to donate a couple of hours a week to share their enthusiasm and knowledge, will be connected with motivated learners for whom private tutoring would otherwise be out of reach. We will bring together the young people of our community who could most benefit from, but least afford, individualised mathematical support with volunteers from a broad spectrum of backgrounds all of whom have a desire to share their love of maths. Students will be required to enrol for the mentoring program – this is typically a longer term commitment with places limited by desk space and volunteer bandwidth. Our priority will be to help young people from less privileged backgrounds but we understand that the need for mathematical support cuts through the social hierarchy. Volunteer numbers permitting, we will therefore also offer some paid tutoring with the income contributing toward the further growth of our core free programs. Recognising the systemic gender gap in mathematical achievement we will specifically encourage girls to participate in our programs, aiming to work with a gender-balanced group of students.
Building strong relationships with local schools will be vital for our success. The Institute should be regarded by teachers as a high quality resource, available to complement the hard work already being done in classrooms day in and day out. Indeed, The Institute will rely on teachers to identify those students for whom The Institute’s mentoring programme would be particularly appropriate. We view this as the most effective way of reaching the young people and their families who wouldn’t normally consider tutoring. Teacher’s will also be key in helping us identify each student’s particular learning needs and tracking student progress.
To begin with, we’ll work with schools, local libraries and sporting associations to obtain desk space as required. However, as soon as possible, we would like The Institute to have a physical presence in the heart of the community it serves — a “shop front” on or near Sydney Road. On weekdays after school this “shop” would be the scheduled meeting place of enrolled students with their mentors. At weekends we would offer a more flexible drop-in “homework clinic” with no need for enrolment — first come first served. This potentially leaves the venue free to operate as a coworking space outside of these hours — a possible source of income for the Institute. We would hope that by encouraging local creatives and artists to rent workspace from us and by inviting them to help create an exciting and distinctive identity for The Institute, a venue will be created which is far removed from the classroom. The Institute will not feel like “the place where kids who need help with maths come.”
Without volunteers, of course, all of the this is a chimera. So how and from what source are these volunteers going to be tapped? We are lucky to have the committed support of two internationally renowned mathematicians based here in Melbourne. Professor Arun Ram and Professor Terry Speed will help us reach out, through professional bodies such as Aust MS (Australian Mathematical Society) and AMSI (Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute), local universities and, of course, their own extensive personal networks, to Melbourne’s broader mathematical community. Our primary focus will be attracting retirees, both academic and industrial, and current under- and post-graduate university students. Every time we take on a new student we are pledging to engage positively over an extended period in that young person’s future. At the same time we are defining and building our reputation. Our growth will therefore be as rapid as is possible whilst maintaining the highest standards. The quality of what we offer is paramount — it might be free but it must also be the best available.
As The Institute grows we will need to attract funding. Aside of course from renting premises, there will be expenses and work associated with, for example, establishing The Institute as an appropriate legal entity, interviewing prospective volunteers, developing and maintaining our online infrastructure and producing and coordinating advertising to attract volunteers. Conscious of the chicken and egg nature of establishing sponsorship we will initially self-fund. However, whether it be through establishing local business partnerships, successfully lobbying for local, state or federal grants or securing a corporate trust or foundation endowment, we aim to have brought in meaningful external capital by the time our 10th student is enrolled on the mentoring program.
Please find details of some of our planed range of programmes here. If you’re interested in volunteering then please register your interest. For any other enquiries please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The founder of the Institute for Enquiring Minds is Dr Andrew Jacobs. Having trained as a theoretical physicist at St. Andrews and Cambridge Universities, Andrew worked for a few years as an academic before becoming a quant for Deutsche Bank in London (2000-2012). After leaving London, Andrew and his family were based in Munich, where he successfully piloted a small-scale version of The Institute before settling here in Melbourne. Andrew has a broad range of educational experience including university and high school teaching as well as one-on-one tutoring from primary school to undergraduate university level.
Andrew’s partner in the business is Dr Doug Lynch MA MBBS MPHTM PGCEH(Aeromedicine) PGC (Disaster Management & Refugee Health). Doug is a critical care doctor who has specialised in medical education. Doug has taught at multiple Australian hospitals and universities, he is a former head of education at the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland) and has a strong association with the Free Open Access Medical Education movement.