Math professor Gary Gordon teaches a student at a blackboard.

Gary Gordon

Popular Mechanics magazine covers the story of Christopher Havens, who taught himself advanced math and number theory while serving a prison sentence. In 2020, Havens contributed to a new mathematical study that was published in the journal Research and Number Theory.

Popular Mechanics spoke to Gary Gordon, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Mathematics, who has interacted with Havens, who is serving a 25-year sentence for murder in the Washington Department of Correction. When Gordon was the editor of the “Problems” section of Math Horizons, a journal for math enthusiasts, he would provide a problem for readers to solve. In 2015, Gordon received a solution from Havens.

Gordon tells the magazine that he “was impressed by the ingenuity of how Havens got to the right answer. It was clear that he didn’t have a typical math background.”

In the piece, Gordon also supplies readers with a sample Math Horizons problem.

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