Shanth Koka

Shanth Koka, a junior at Seven Lakes High School, created an outreach program for high school students to help junior high students prepare for math competitions.

Seven Lakes High School junior Shanth Koka has always had a talent and passion for mathematics. Now through Seven Lakes’ Mu Alpha Theta Organization, he is able to encourage mathematical excellence in others.

Koka is currently the president of Mu Alpha Theta Organization, a math honors society. Not long after joining the organization, Koka conceptualized and implemented an outreach program that unites Katy ISD junior high math teams with volunteer high school coaches and teacher sponsors.

Koka competed in math competitions when he attended Beckendorff Junior High. When he reached high school, he saw an opportunity for high school students to help coach the younger grades for their competitions.

Koka first contacted Seven Lakes Junior High to see if any of the students would be interested in forming a team. When the students expressed an interest, Koka reached out to his friends who had formerly competed in the junior high competitions to see if they would be willing to coach.

There are now seven schools participating in the program.

Each team is run by volunteer high school students and overseen by Katy ISD teachers. The teachers are merely present; the sessions are run entirely by high school students. 

During the practices, junior high students study the concepts and materials that the competitions will cover. Students are tested in several different categories, such as mental math, mathematical method with calculators and general math and science. 

As a result of Koka’s program, the junior high students are getting math training and are performing better in competitions, and they're able to win accolades for their schools. 

There is a benefit to the high school students as well. The “officers” get volunteer hours for their time. They also learn important leadership skills that will help them down the road, and when it comes time to apply for college, the experience will help enhance their college applications.

Beyond academics, however, Koka’s program has brought the junior high students, high school students and sponsors together as a community. 

“It's built up a sense of togetherness and friendships,” Koka’s father Sunny Koka said. “It’s even brought parents together because there are tournaments every month, so there are several groups of parents who come together as well.”

Jason Placette is a teacher for Katy ISD and a sponsor for the program. 

“It’s inspiring to me to see our SLHS students, especially our officers, take the initiative to help spread their love of math to younger students and to help them achieve more than they might otherwise,” Placette said.