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Thank you for your interest in the Institute for Enquiring Minds.

The Institute is educational initiative, currently based in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, dedicated to helping under-resourced school students improve their maths skills. The 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.

To those who could most benefit from but least afford individualized mathematical support we aim to provide free, high quality, one-on-one mathematical mentoring.

Please take a moment to find out more about our vision and proposed programmes. Perhaps then you’d like to register your interest in helping us to start changing the lives of young people for the better? If you are the parent/guardian/teacher of a student who you think might benefit from what we provide, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Vision

The problem: There is a crisis in school mathematics in Australia. Just as the digital revolution is hurtling us towards a future in which strong foundational skills in science and mathematics will be more in demand than ever before, participation in advanced high-school maths is collapsing, standards are falling and the gender gap is widening. Moreover, if you come from an under-resourced background, you’re even more likely to leave school without any formal mathematics qualification, so perpetuating the vicious cycle of social inequity.

Our solution: The Institute for Enquiring Minds is an educational initiative, based in the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne, dedicated to helping under-resourced school students improve their maths skills. The Institute is founded on two simple principles. We believe 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 also believe that a resource sharing approach is essential to promoting social equality and strengthening the social fabric of communities. The Institute synthesises these twin principles by pairing students, The Institute’s ‘Scholars’, who are either struggling or under-challenged, who are keen to learn but cannot aff ord private tuition, with maths wizards, The Institute’s ‘Mentors’, individuals so passionate about maths they are willing to donate two hours a week to share their enthusiasm and knowledge. To those who could most benefit from but least afford individualized mathematical support we aim to provide free, high quality, one-on-one mathematical mentoring.

How it works: Paid maths tutoring can cost anywhere from $35 to $100 per hour. The monetary value of a terms worth of two hours per week tutoring is therefore of the order of $1000 — simply out of reach for most families. Unless, that is, they win an Institute for Enquiring Minds Scholarship. These awards are strictly for committed students and afford the successful applicant 16 hours of face-to-face, one-to-one mathematical mentoring. By explicitly attaching the $1000 value to these scholarships we are acknowledging the expertise and exceptional social commitment of our Mentors as well as the dedication and effort we expect of our Scholars. The costs associated will be met by The Institute and its benefactors. As the programme grows, the public and private sector, both local and national, will be invited to become named sponsors of Scholarships.

Applying for a Scholarship: To become an Institute for Enquiring Minds Scholar a student must first be nominated. The Nomination Pack contains two forms — one for the applicant’s parent/guardian and one for the maths department of the student’s school. If this nomination is accepted, the student is then asked to enter into a Contract of Commitment with the Institute, covering The Institute’s expectations of a successful Scholar, in particular with regard to attendance and eagerness to learn.

What makes us special: No one else offers what we offer: free, one-on-one, face-to-face maths mentorship. Our program delivers a unique brand of private tutoring that money literally cannot buy — our mentors, handpicked to ensure they have the highest mathematical credentials, are so passionate about their subject and so socially committed they are willing to tutor and mentor without charge.

Our Mentors: We have a multi-strand volunteer recruitment plan. The undergraduate mathematics students of Melbourne University have already demonstrated an inspiring commitment to our program. We anticipate similarly enthusiastic support from the other Melbourne based universities. Volunteers will also be sourced from existing community engagement/outreach programs initiated by banking, engineering and IT corporations as well as maths experts amongst Melbourne’s retired population. With the help of internationally renowned mathematicians such as Prof. Arun Ram (Department of Mathematics, Melbourne University) and Prof Terry Speed (Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research) we’ll actively assist our volunteers in terms of best-practice mathematical pedagogy and facilitate the development and maintenance of a shared repository of data and support materials.

Our Scholars: It has become normal for high school maths classes to contain multi-year-level abilities. Teachers, already struggling to progress through a mandated curriculum at the required pace, inevitably focus on the middle of the ability spectrum leaving many students unable to participate and others under-extended. It is from this pool of students that we’ll draw our early adopters. They will have been unable to access traditional tuition due to financial constraints but will be motivated to learn and prepared to commit to a term’s worth of two hours per week of one-on-one tutoring sessions.

Mathematical mentoring: On a term-by-term basis students commit to meeting with their mentor for two hours per week. The usual approach will be for the student and mentor to initially work through the school-set homework. A student who has completed the set homework will feel empowered to participate more fully in their next school class. Time permitting, with the homework completed, technique and knowledge gaps will be addressed. By committing to a regular engagement over an extended period the mentor and student will build a relationship which will not just help develop the students mathematical understanding, but also dispel prejudices of who mathematicians are and what it can feel like to do maths.

Our Team

We are a group with extensive educational experience spanning multiple subjects (mathematics, art, medicine, coding and EAL) and multiple modalities (tutoring, lecturing, training, course design, asynchronous learning system design, podcasting, manual/textbook authorship, critical analysis and mentorship).

Dr Andrew Jacobs – the founder. Andrew holds a PhD in theoretical physics and worked as an academic mathematician 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 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.

Ruth Höflich – a visual artist born in Germany now based in Melbourne. Ruth holds a BA (Hons.) from the Slade School of Five Art, London and MFA from Bard College, New York. Her work includes photography, video and print. Ruth frequently engages in collaborative and curatorial projects and has worked on the committee of several artist-run initiatives both in the UK and Germany. She has exhibited internationally and was awarded the Emerging Artist Prize of the City of Munich in 2016.

Jenny Nam – an ELICOS teacher and Edtech developer. Jenny holds a BA with a major in Linguistics from the University of Melbourne. She has worked in the banking and investment sector in Sydney, Melbourne, New York and Singapore. Jenny is also a techie and has been in an augmented reality startup for education and contributed to coding in Open Source projects. She is currently working on applying Artificial Intelligence to language learning. Jenny has been highly recognised in for her contribution to the youth community and was recognised with an Order of Australia Certificate of Commendation in her youth.

Dr Doug Lynch – MA (Cantab.) MBBS MPHTM PGC (Aeromedicine) PGC (Refugee Health & Disaster Medicine) – a medical doctor born in Ireland, studied in England, trained in Australia. He has specialised in Critical Care (emergency, ICU, anaesthesia and aeromedicine) and Medical Education. Doug has taught at multiple Australian hospitals and universities and is a former head of education at the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland). He is a podcaster, blogger, asynchronous teacher and has a strong association with the Free Open Access Medical Education movement. Doug is heavily involved in public health and healthy eating education projects ranging from grass roots projects embedded in schools to television documentaries.

Programmes

Mathematical mentoring: One-on-one tutoring, typically two hours a week after school in either one or two sessions. The usual approach will be to start by working through the school-set homework. A student who has completed the set homework will feel more confident and engaged in class. Time permitting, with the homework completed, technique and knowledge gaps will be addressed (e.g. negative numbers, fractions, algebraic manipulation) and, for year 11 and 12 students, past VCE exam questions will be tackled. A small amount of homework may be set by the tutor. Students must formally enrol for the mentoring program. The program will run according to the school calendar and, after an initial trial session to ensure compatibility with the tutor, students will be obliged to commit to a full term. Mentoring places will be limited and students and parents should be aware that cancelation without notice will result in the place being lost.

Supervised workgroups: Groups of up to five students to meet once or twice a week for supervised problem-solving sessions. Particularly in the run up to VCE exams these will involve past exam questions being tackled under exam conditions with the solutions then being reviewed and discussed. Sessions will typically run for at least 2 hours.

Weekend homework clinic: Free homework help on a first come first served basis. No need to enrol. Once we have a venue up and running volunteers will simply be on hand during set hours each school term weekend to help out anyone aged 8-18 with their school maths homework.

Mathematical reading circles: Informal maths and physics reading groups will meet at The Institute. Perhaps you want to learn/relearn quantum mechanics or general relativity? Is there a popular science book that you’d like to read and feel that the structure and support provided by regular meetings with other like-minded readers would be beneficial? Submit a reading circle suggestion and we’ll reach out to our extensive network of “mathphiles” to drum up interest. In some cases notes from these “circles” would be maintained at the Institute’s maths and physics virtual library, constituting a high quality resource useful to learners far beyond the physical reach of The Institute.