Richmond Tan does not have a study table in the one-room rental flat that he shares with his father, grandfather and brother.
There were times when he did not even have a roof over his head, after his family was temporarily chased out of the Queenstown flat as a result of spats between his father and the landlord.
Richmond had to sleep in void decks or at Changi Airport.
He said what motivated him to do well in his studies was his role model, Han Xin, one of the heroes of the early Han dynasty in China.
He learnt of Han after reading The Art Of War by Sun Tzu, which inspired him to take China Studies for his A levels.
“Han Xin was so poor he had to beg for food. His circumstances were even worse than mine, but he studied hard and became a capable minister,” he added.
Han Xin was also a mathematician, and one of the earliest to discover the secret of the Chinese Remainder Theorem, a key result in Number Theory. According to legend, he used it to calculate the number of soldiers in his army. See this post for more details: http://chinesetuition88.com/2015/04/25/chinese-remainder-theorem-history-%E9%9F%A9%E4%BF%A1%E7%82%B9%E5%85%B5/