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Translated from 30/11/2013 Chinese Herald page C1

From knowing Andrew Patterson’s story to

thinking about “mentor”


When Tristan Met Andrew Patterson

 In 2011, nine-year-old Tristan taught himself IGCSE mathematics and challenged the 15-16 year-old candidates. In the Cambridge International Examination, he received the highest grade A* and scored 97 percent. The news of his remarkable achievement spread from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere. The media followed this IQ163 maths genius’s progress with great interest. The New Zealand Herald and Chinese Herald reported Tristan achievements, his family background and the story of his upbringing on 2nd of March and 24th   of March 2012.

In September 2013, he was recognised at the NIWA Auckland City Science and Technology Fair with his awarded project “Triple Layer Milk Bottle – is it effective?”. This put claims behind Fonterra’s new light-proof milk bottles to the test. Again there were reports on Tristan in the New Zealand Herald (10th of September) and Chinese Herald (12th of September). His excellent performance attracted TEDx Youth Auckland, which invited him to be the speaker at their 26th October TED conference at the Auckland Museum. Tristan was the youngest TEDx speaker in New Zealand.

TED is a non-profit organisation devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It started in 1984 with its headquarters in New York and Vancouver. The conferences bring people from three categories: Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED conferences bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives. Their talks are interspersed with shorter presentations with some artists [u4] or musicians. A TED speaker or TED Master of Ceremonies is a passionate individual whose profession and presentation skills are highly affirmed.

Andrew Patterson is one of New Zealand’s most famous broadcasters and public speakers. He was the public speaking coach and Master of Ceremonies at the TED conference. Tristan met Mr Patterson during rehearsals and speech coaching sessions; this was also Tristan’s chances to meet his first mentor in life.

 Andrew Patterson – looking for the meaning and value of life beyond his profession

 Andrew Patterson graduated with a Commerce degree from the University of Auckland majoring in business strategy, marketing, and economics. After working in the banking and tourism sectors, Mr Patterson switched to a career in media in 1995. He was a business presenter with NewsRadio in Sydney for six years. In 2006, Mr Patterson returned to New Zealand to join RadioLIVE as a business editor. The media dubbed him as the most hard-working radio broadcaster in New Zealand. He has worked six days a week, including a “Sunday Business” programme at RadioLIVE, for more than six years.

During the course of his media career, Mr Patterson has travelled to more than 50 countries. He is an in-demand speaker and master of ceremonies at conferences and events. He also writes in the business review column. He is a voracious reader of business and economic literature and a close follower of global business trends, particularly around innovation and entrepreneurship. He also maintains an active interest in international politics, global financial markets and social justice issues.

He is busy and successful with a very positive and professional public image. It is hard to imagine that he always shows his concerns about a primary school that is in one of the poorest areas in Auckland: Point England School.

Point England School is a Decile 1 (lowest socio-economic communities) year 1 to year 8 school. Mr Patterson unconditionally lends his support to this school, which successfully received a sponsorship from Google for notebook computers for all students. Point England School is one of the four schools in the world that Google is using as a pilot to try out new tools within its Google Education suite. Although the sponsorship project is done, Mr Patterson is still following up the progress of the school and students, while the school always invites him to attend their major events.

Bailey is a 13-year-old boy who lives in South Auckland. Bailey participated in a confidence course run by Mr Patterson as he had very poor self-confidence and had never have the courage to speak in front of his class. When Bailey finished the course, he transformed into a different person – a person who is hard working and confident, and he even starts setting goals for himself. Bailey wrote to thank Mr Patterson; at the end of the letter, he said: “…I’d like to make you a promise. When I’m older I will get a great job and buy you a Lamborghini.”

Geniuses like Tristan have the dimension of seeing things that may be more comprehensive and in depth than the average child. It is more difficult for him to be convinced. However, Tristan strongly felt that in addition to teaching him the skills of public speaking, Mr Patterson is full of enthusiasm and dedication to young people. He is a very knowledgeable, convincing and reliable person. He can work effectively and efficiently and can pay attention to every detail. Tristan said, “Mr Patterson is my mentor!”

I told Tristan’s mum, Elaine, “Before Andrew Patterson coaches or guides anyone, he must have tried to understand and study the person first. This is my turn to explore his inner world.” Andrew Patterson’s life seems perfect. He has been seeking meaning and value beyond his profession. I believe he must have pursued the joy from his dedication and thanksgiving.

Having found a mentor – a wisdom and a gift

 In Greek mythology, Odysseus is about to set off for the Trojan War and he entrusts his son Telemachus to Mentor. Mentor is always dedicated to the care and guidance to Telemachus. Thereafter, Mentor became synonymous with mentor, meaning someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with less experienced people.

Mentors enlighten positive thinking and behaviour. He or she does not have to have a high qualification or substantial wealth, but he or she needs to understand the philosophy of life. In many cases, a book, a speech, an incident can become an abstract mentor. The current South Korean President Park Geun-hye has published “Meet the lighthouse in my life – Eastern philosophy”. She mentioned that she was inspired by lan’s “History of Chinese Philosophy”. She believed this book is her mentor.

My old classmate Jennifer told me, “I am close to the heart of the children, I always hope that they can create their own prosperous future at their best. I am pleased to be their mentor rather than knowing them going to the Ivy League.” I myself always reflect on why should we push the children to a prestige education institution? We should help the children look for a mentor instead.

If a person can find a mentor, it is due to his or her own wisdom; it is also a gift and a blessing. Arrogance and prejudice will scare a mentor away. I wish everyone could find a mentor in the new year of 2014.


Translated from the Chinese Herald 23/11/2013

Another Breakthrough of a Young Scientist

At the TEDx Auckland Youth conference last month, Tristan Owain Pang, who has just turned 12, delivered a very impressive speech, “Quest is fun. Be Nosy” to over 500 people at the Auckland Museum. The talk was about how and why he could achieve top grades in the Cambridge International Examination as well as self-learning and accelerating. He explained these with his exploration of science and mathematics. His distinctive analysis and his understanding of maths have gained applause and special attention. Audiences requested photo taking and autographs from him after his talk.

TED or TEDx is a non-profit organisation devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”. It started in 1984 in Silicon Valley as a conference bringing people from three categories: Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED or TEDx conferences bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers who are challenged to give the talk of their lives. Some of the renowned speakers were New Zealand former Prime Minister Helen Clark, former US President  Bill Clinton and Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. Tristan was one of New Zealand’s youngest TEDx talk speakers.

What makes this boy so special and be able to step onto the stage at TEDx? Newspaper articles reported his achievements two years ago, which attracted the attention from people all around. Year 5 Tristan featured in the NZ Herald when, as a nine-year-old, he top-scored in an international Cambridge mathematics exam usually sat by students in Year 11. He plans to eventually work in the science research field, most likely in quantum physics or medicine. Two years on, what has he been doing?

Challenge the authority

Tristan is indeed extraordinary; as demonstrated in his speech, he was interested in exploration. Three months ago, he was recognised at the Niwa Auckland City Science and Technology Fair with his awarded project “Triple Layer Milk Bottle – is it effective?” that put claims behind Fonterra’s new light-proof milk bottles to the test. Tristan carried out three lots of testing on the new Anchor triple-layer bottles for taste, light and acidity.

The first two received positive results, but he said “something funny” occurred during the acid test when the milk was left outside – milk in the triple layer bottle degraded faster.

Fonterra had launched the triple-layer Anchor bottle in March, saying it protects milk from light and keeps it fresher and tasting better for longer.

Tristan’s project has been praised by University of Auckland and Fonterra scientists, and he now plans to carry out further repetitions of the experiment.

Fonterra scientist and brands innovation manager Olaf van Daalen said the work was of a very high calibre.

However, Mr Van Daalen said their own testing had shown the rate of temperature change in the old and new bottles was exactly the same.

“Even a very small difference in the starting condition of the milk will make a big difference to how quickly it degrades.”

Professor Conrad Perera of the University of Auckland’s School of Chemical Studies said the experiment would need to be repeated a number of times to draw any conclusions.

“The budding scientist needs to be congratulated and encouraged for his enthusiasm and enterprise … we hope he will think of doing food science when he is ready to enter the university.” Professor Perera said.

This young child has shown the scientist calibre – not afraid of authority, has the courage to face the challenge. This is something that needs to be encouraged.

 The whizz kid

Tristan is a Year 7 student at Ficino School. Two years ago, when he was in Year 5, he sat the IGCSE mathematics exam through the Cambridge international exam system and top-scored with 97 percent. Tristan was New Zealand’s youngest-ever candidate – and quite possibly the world’s – to sit the exam, normally done by students in Year 11. He did these outside his school hours. Most of his mathematical knowledge was self-learned. At the age of five, before he started primary school, he had already done Year 11 maths and has read all sorts of books at a very advanced level.

On top of maths, he is also a science genius. He was interested in the profound modern sciences like relativity, quantum, atom and molecule from a very early age. As long as it is not visible at first glance, he would like to explore it. He is interested in time travel as well. He wonders what would happen if we travel to the past or go to the future.

Perhaps it is his inquisitiveness nature that makes him keep exploring the unknown.

Tristan has many interests. On top of science, he also likes English, science, philosophy, Sanskrit, drama, piano and swimming. Sanskrit is known as the most difficult language in the world; however, he likes the challenge.

He is a cadet of St John and a squad member of the swimming club. He also likes tennis, soccer and table tennis, but his greatest interest is reading. He likes to work on the computer, but he seldom plays computer games.

Tristan was referred to a psychologist by his kindi for assessment. The result of the assessment showed that Tristan has exceptional gifted abilities for thinking and reasoning, both with language concepts and for visual / spatial reasoning. Scholastically, he was well ahead of his peers. He was found to have an overall score at the 99.99th percentile with IQ 163. An average adult’s IQ is between 90 and 110; 120 is considered to be intelligent. An IQ above 160 is extremely rare. Scientists believe that Einstein’s IQ was 160.

 Family education

Mrs Pang, Tristan’s mum, said his son exhibited a keen interest in learning from a very young age. “He is a very self-discipline child with very high concentration span. He pays attention to every detail. He started picking up calculation when he was a one year old; by two, he started reading independently; by four, he had solved all the brain teaser puzzles available on the market like ‘Think Fun’ games, which are designed for ages 8 to adult. I think it helped him to develop his problem-solving skills.

“Later on, he found those type of games were no longer challenging, so I put lots of very advanced science and maths books, and chapter fiction books next to his toys. The books aroused his great interest. In his young mind, he thought reading was also a game. A book is a type of toy.

“Tristan teaches himself on his own … we leave it up to him to decide how far he wants to extend himself,” Mrs Pang said, “also, we won’t pay too much attention to the minor details. For example, the format of working out a maths problem. As long as he can fully understand the concept, we will just let him move on to the next level. Repetition is something that makes a gifted child lose interest in learning.”

Peter Crompton, Tristan’s principal at Ficino School, said he recognised Tristan’s unique capabilities when he first met him. “I used to teach at Oxford University in the UK and there are some very, very intelligent people there … and Tristan is really special.”

An education expert commented on Tristan, “He should be able to start a more advanced learning, like going to the University of Auckland. With his talent and intelligence, he should demonstrate what he has to them, and they can help him excel and soar.”

Tristan is such a highly intelligent child and is very capable of skipping some school years. However, Tristan’s parents insist their son stay with his year-group at school, so his Cambridge studies are all done outside school hours.

An education expert said, “Many Chinese parents like their child to skip school year. Before skipping the school year, the parent should think carefully about their child’s social needs.”

Another teacher said, “Most gifted students are now buried in our education system, which is something that we cannot control, but we can choose how to extend them in their spare time. We have to respect their choice and develop their interest. There are not many students as talented as Tristan, but nurturing in a right direction can greatly improve a child’s learning interest.”

Tristan’s TEDx talk can be found here: