Math quiz casts spell over colleagues

Updated: 2013-04-22 18:30

By Wang Yuke (

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Tian Fangzehuan, winner of the local North American Mathematics Modeling Contest at Tianjin University in early February, is admired by his schoolmates and teachers because of his success not just in math, but in magic as well.

Tian is a junior at Tianjin University, majoring in measurement and control technology and instruments. Informed of his contest win in early April, he is the first Tianjin University student to get the highest ranking in the event. His entry, a thesis that solved a presented problem, scored in the top 3 percent of all contest entries worldwide.

An engineering student, Tian said math is intertwined with his life.

“I was exposed to math at a tender age and increasingly addicted to the point that I was hysterically excited when stumbling on mere figures,” he said. For instance, he once independently worked out area formulas when his peers were struggling with basic calculations.

Tian’s love complex of math sustains and contributes to his success in math modeling. He believes just about every truth can be resolved and unlocked by math modeling analysis.

“The best way out to complicated matters is factoring in influential elements and quantifying them respectively,” he said. “For example, the appropriate number of cash desks available in supermarkets, the rating that a bottle of wine deserves, and even your ideal girlfriend can be hammered out in a mathematical way.”

Tian is gifted not only academically but as an amateur magician as well.

“I never worked with a master magician. My knowledge comes only from several magic books and DVDs, and still more importantly, from contemplating, exploring, venturing and practicing,” he said.

“I fondly remember my first close encounter with (magician) Liuqian, who staged a live performance in my primary school. The real-time visual shocks caught my imagination so that I set my mind on unraveling the mystery shrouded in the art of magic.”

He perceives that the sophistication of magic goes beyond both acrobatics and jugglery.

“The heart of magic is ridding audiences of suspicion and winning over them by virtue of artistic effects and aesthetic package, but the grasp of stunts in magic entails as much hard work as the other two art forms.

"With a deck of cards and a magic coin, I can get through any difficulties because I can make a living out of performing everywhere, though that is anything but my career", he said proudly.

He added that doing magic transforms his personality for the better. “Thanks to magic, I came out of my shell, and became social and talkative. That's an added bonus.”

Tian is the initiator of the magic club in his university and high school as well.