Maths professionals make ideal mentors for enquiring minds

Posted: Tue, 16th October 2018 | Written by: The Team at Western Chances

Western Chances is thrilled to welcome The Institute for Enquiring Minds as a new member of our Links Program. Enthusiastic mentors are supporting scholarship recipients with one-on-one maths coaching, helping students to achieve incredible results in improved performance and career opportunities.

Maths professionals make ideal mentors for enquiring minds

Having a maths mentor makes a huge difference to a student’s learning outcomes

Co-founder of the Institute of Enquiring Minds, Dr Andrew Jacobs, admits he wasn’t particularly interested in maths as a young student. He preferred sport! But when he became fascinated with quantum physics in Year 10, he had some catching up to do.  

“It soon became clear that maths was the key... but I hadn't been paying too much attention in maths class till then! So it was my huge good fortune to have my grandfather living with us - he was a mathematician and once I started showing an interest in learning maths he was ready to help. He became my mathematical mentor and I have no doubt that without his support then I wouldn't be answering these questions now! This experience taught me the power of one-on-one time spent with an enthusiastic expert.”

Mentoring provides students with the support they need to thrive

Dr Jacobs understands that many young people face barriers to achieving academic success. Inspired by his own experience receiving mentoring support, he’s committed to creating opportunities for talented young people to get the help they need.

“It is a sad fact of our times that whilst talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not. The goal of The Institute is to provide the sort of opportunity my grandfather gave me to students without my good fortune or the means to pay for the personalised support which can be so effective in building confidence and raising expectations of success.”

At the same time, the mentoring experience is a worthwhile and rewarding role for the tutors.

“Probably the most significant thing I’ve learned, and something which fills me with great hope for the future, is the extent to which young people, successfully working their way through university, well on their way to successful fulfilling careers, have a burning desire to extend a helping hand to those hoping to follow in their footsteps but who face real financial barriers.”

Linking common goals makes a win-win solution for students and mentors

Dr Jacobs points to three key ingredients which make The Institute for Enquiring Minds program successful:

“Exceptional volunteer maths mentors, students with a hunger to learn, and safe stimulating spaces for the mentors and students to meet and do maths.”

This couldn’t be a better fit for Western Chances, to foster learning opportunities for students striving to achieve their best. It has been a delight to collaborate with Dr Jacobs through the Links program.

“We sought out organisations already helping students achieve their educational potential in spite of significant financial obstacles. No surprise then that we came across Western Chances! What we couldn't have anticipated was how positively they engaged with us from the outset. From the first interaction with Rhyll to the subsequent weekly interactions with Anne and Colleen, our engagement with Western Chances has been wonderfully affirming and has helped sustain my belief in the viability of The Institute's mission.”

Industry mentoring opens up career pathways

Given his own success being mentored in maths by his grandfather, Dr Jacobs is passionate about helping young people reach their potential by mastering mathematics.

“Our goal was always to help young people reset both their expectations of success and their attitudes towards maths. The feedback so far suggests that we have been successful on both counts.”

The industry mentoring program brings together a group of students with skilled industry professionals for one-on-one mentoring in mathematics. So far, around 20 Western Chances recipients people have benefitted from the tutoring and the feedback from them has been outstanding. Eight scholarship recipients recently participated in the inaugural IEM program at NAB where they were tutored for four sessions of two hours per week by senior managers at NAB’s offices in Docklands. The students get a unique insight into the potential career options where strong mathematics skills would take them.

Scholarship recipient and participant in the Links program, Oskar, has made great progress with the help of The Institute’s tutoring.

“The tutoring that I have been doing to help with my maths has been very helpful. With this tutoring, I have received very high scores, which has helped with my confidence in wanting to do Maths Methods for year 11 and 12. The tutoring has
 also helped me build a good relationship with the tutor, which makes the sessions more enjoyable.”

Sharing mathematics expertise enriches our intellectual and cultural lives

Leading by example, Dr Jacobs established his career in the field of mathematics after studying maths and physics at university, culminating in a PhD in theoretical physics. He worked as an academic mathematician and then as a “Quant” (Quantitative Analyst, someone who applies mathematical techniques to financial investment) at Deutsche Bank in London.

Since piloting a version of The Institute in Munich and bringing the concept here to Melbourne, Dr Jacobs has big dreams for the future of The Institute of Enquiring Minds.

“The Institute has great potential for growth both in Melbourne and beyond. Bigger picture, I see what we are doing as building a kind of movement of mathematicians, proudly passionate about their subject, putting the lie to the stereotype of the socially inept geek as they strive for social justice. We have already begun, and will continue, to establish a genuine sense of community amongst these socially engaged enquiring minds by programming innovative cross-disciplinary events aimed at enriching the intellectual and cultural lives of our volunteers, our students, their families, as well the broader community in which we operate.”

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