# Murderer Taught Himself Higher Math In Prison And Solved A Age-Old Math Problem

Aadhya Khatri - Jul 02, 2020

The math problem he solved is of great importance to cryptography, a practice to secure communication in finance, military, and banking

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A murderer in the US has found a good way to spend his time in prison and made something out of it. What he did was to teach himself higher mathematics and then solved an ancient arithmetic problem. And his love for math is passing on to his fellow prisoners.

The man in question is Christopher Havens who has spent the last nine years of his life in a prison near Seattle for murder. He is a school dropout, a drug addict and a convicted murderer. Havens was sentenced 25 years and he has 16 more years to serve.

When in prison, Havens discovered his liking for math. The self-study journey wasn’t easy though. The books he ordered were intercepted by prison wardens and he could only get the books if he agreed to teach other prisoners math.

After some time studying higher mathematics, he found himself in need of more. So he wrote a letter to a mathematical publisher asking for a few issues of a famous journal in mathematics, the Annals of Mathematics.

## Mathematics as mission

Havens wrote in the letter numbers were his mission and he would spend the years in prison to self-improve. However, he had no one else he could discuss the complicated math problems with.

One of the editors at the Mathematica Science Publisher forwarded Havens’ letter to Marta Cerruti, a partner of his. She then sent it to her farther, Umberto Cerruti, a math professor in Turin.

The professor was skeptical when he received the letter at first but he still sent the Seattle prisoner a math problem to assess his ability.

Sometime later, professor Cerruti received a 120-cm long answer wrote on a piece of paper. He entered the extremely long formula to a computer to check it and much to his surprise, the prisoner got the correct answer.

After that, Havens was invited to work with Umberto Cerruti on an ancient math problem the professor has been struggling for some time.

## Ancient mystery solved

With only paper and pen, Havens struggled for a while with the problem of continued fractions, which Euclid, a famous Greek mathematician had thought very hard about.

A continued fraction is a mixed fraction with the denominator also comes in the form of a mixed fraction. And this structure continues for infinity. The number theory is used in cryptography, a practice to secure communication in finance, military, and banking.

Havens later found, for the first time, some regularities in a large class of numbers’ approximation.

With Cerruti’s help, Havens’ proof was formulated and after a few months, made public in the Research in Number Theory journal.

Solving an age-old math problem is enough of an achievement but there is something no less positive comes with his effort, Havens’ success inspires a group of prisoners to pursue mathematics and the Seattle prison now has a math club with participants are inmates.

## Aroused Enthusiasm

Havens and 14 of his fellow prisoners celebrate March 14 as Pi Day. Professor Umberto Cerruti managed to join of the celebrations under strictest security. He was impressed by another inmate who could recite 461 decimal places of Pi by heart.

Havens has 16 years left in prison to serve and he wants to spend that amount of time learning other topics of math. He said math is a way for him to make amend and repay his debt to society, as stated by Marta Cerruti, who has had a number of conversations with the prisoner.

She said after he is out of jail, he wants to official learn math.

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