The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School

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The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School

TATLER

The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School

TATLER

Meet the Man Who Redefined Lakeside Math

Siva+Sankrithi+04.
Siva Sankrithi ’04.

Do you absolutely adore Lakeside math classes? Do you despise them with a fiery passion? Either way, you should thank Siva Sankrithi ’04. A former Lakeside student, Sankrithi left the school at age 16 to attend the University of Washington, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years. He returned to Lakeside at age 19 as a math teacher. During his ten years at Lakeside, Sankrithi worked with Math Department Head Todd Kresser to create the math packets diligently completed by today’s students. Now a private tutor, author, and father of two homeschooled kids, Sankrithi — the man behind the math — reflects on the future of STEM at Lakeside.

Sankrithi — the man behind the math — reflects on the future of STEM at Lakeside.

In the beginning, before he could overhaul Lakeside’s math curriculum, Sankrithi — who taught students just a year younger than him — had to learn how to manage a classroom. “[My students] knew I was also a kid, so I just had to adapt a little bit,” said Sankrithi. Some lighthearted advice from his mentor, an impressive bank of math knowledge, and a “suitably embarrassing” Britney Spears impression did the trick.

“[My mentor] said I have to grow my facial hair, so that people didn’t really know how young I was,” chuckled Sankrithi. “It was a little bit of a joke, but I took it seriously.” Sankrithi, however, didn’t take himself too seriously as he belted Britney Spears’s greatest hits at assembly to raise money for a school in Liberia. “It was a good time,” he remarked.

Quickly, Sankrithi gained his bearings in the classroom, leaving him plenty of time to evaluate the math curriculum. Sankrithi’s youthful perspective helped him realize that much of Lakeside’s program was outdated. He believes that “Lakeside keeps changing, … technology keeps changing, and what students really need to thrive keeps changing over time.”

To modernize the curriculum, Sankrithi, Mr. Kresser, and their colleagues added computer science projects and wrote custom packets, ditching “drill and kill” memorization in favor of analysis and problem-solving skills. Sankrithi also proposed a new method of teaching: child-led learning. He wanted to leave behind the notion that the teacher was the sole expert in the room, instead allowing students to explore concepts on their own, with teachers acting as guides. In Sankrithi’s words, turning the educator from the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side.”

Sankrithi had so much fun redesigning the math program with his colleagues that he decided to create four new Lakeside electives — Game Theory, Geopolitics, Linear Optimization, and Election Theory —  as well as help write the math curriculum for The Downtown School.

When he was not inventing story problems, Sankrithi worked with the Lakeside chess team. He loved the game and saw it as “one of the most powerful education tools out there.” To him, it was a useful way to teach teenagers the skills required for an independent life as an adult.

Siva Sankrithi ’04 playing chess.

“I mean, you have concrete takeaways like spatial reasoning, number sense, the array logic, the letters and numbers, the values of the pieces… but more than that … the pattern recognition, the taking turns, the planning — these deeper habits of mind. I like to call it rational decision-making under uncertainty … That’s what life is, you know. I think younger people call it adulting, but that’s what we do.”

But after a decade at Lakeside working in math, admissions, DEI, and even Indian cooking, Sankrithi handed the chess team over to current coach Josh Sinanan, leaving Lakeside to spend more time with his kids. “I had one son, and he was about three at the time, and it was pretty clear to me that homeschool[ing] was the right approach for him.” From then on, Sankrithi dabbled in the education business, working as a mentor and tutor to Lakesiders. 

Without his job as a teacher, Sankrithi suddenly had a lot more time on his hands. “My wife works during the day. I work evenings and weekends a little bit. And so, at any given point in time, one of us is around with our kids.” As a result, his kids love chess, play multiple instruments, sing, and travel. 

In addition, Sankrithi delights in sharing his success with others. With his family, he wrote a book titled “Do Brown Cows Make Chocolate Milk?: Family Experiences Around Child-Led Learning.” In the book, Sankrithi discusses his family’s unique homeschool program in which his sons, ages 5 and 10, are free to explore areas of interest on their own. In every chapter, there are reflections from the entire family and a one-word takeaway.

Siva Sankrithi ’04 with his family

Sankrithi truly enjoyed writing the book with his family and learning the intricacies of authoring and publishing. His main goal is for readers to realize that “whenever a child is invested in their own learning and running with what they’re passionate about and interested in, the sky’s the limit.”

Despite his valiant efforts to reform the school, Sankrithi still sees an area for growth at Lakeside. “I think to me, one of the biggest challenges at a school like Lakeside is [that] you have so many students who are upper outliers in something, [so it] is very difficult for them to see themselves as successful in a broader sense.” 

How can [we] really help each and every kid feel like not only do they belong, but that they’re bringing something to the table?

— Siva Sankrithi '04

He hopes that Lakeside administrators will ask themselves, “How can [we] really help each and every kid feel not only that they belong, but that they’re bringing something to the table?” Sankrithi believes that child-led learning is key to answering this question. “I think empowering kids to see how awesome they actually are on an individualized level … that’s huge. I think that’s something the school really needs to work on,” he said. “If [Lakeside] can figure that out, the school is going to be even better.”

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COMMON NAME: Tim/Timothy/Timmy SCIENTIFIC NAME: Timothy Dong TYPE: Extrovert PERSONALITY: Energetic, Charismatic, Imaginative DIET: Anything goes, loves Turkish pastries AVERAGE ATTENTION SPAN: ~5 minutes HABITAT: Can be found all around the school talking with friends or working on homework, most common in the library wasting time HOBBIES: Plays modded Minecraft in free time, or goes hiking out in the Cascades

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