In early 2012, a prisoner by the name Christopher Havens began studying mathematics for the very first time within the prison inside of prison. We know this form of isolation by the name solitary confinement… prisoners know it as “the hole”. Having no other form of stimulation, mathematics occupied every hour of Christopher‘s days, lasting the better part of a year until he was released back into the general population. In so many cases, the negative effects of prolonged isolation manifests itself through the behaviors in both the short and the long term. However, this case is one where a mix of isolation and the transformative powers of mathematics caused Christopher to undergo a steady chain of personal growth while igniting within him a passion for mathematics.
The guidelines for prisoners receiving books are becoming more and more restrictive, and so after a more than a year of so many priceless rejected books, Christopher had the idea of a math program for which he sent across the ocean. Luisella and Christopher sent their ideas back and forth with the rough idea being to establish a math program with a classroom and a library containing every last one of the previously rejected books. In 2015, Christopher was transferred to a minimum security unit as a result of his exceptional behaviors, and he began working to start the program.
The Prison Mathematics Project holds meetings twice weekly where they discuss mathematics, collaborate on large projects and work together on their very own “PMP Solving Team”. In the Solving Team, prisoners search math magazines (such as MAA Horizons) and solve the problems in the back sections. Unconventional teaching took place to accommodate a group of math enthusiasts whose mathematical maturity varied greatly from one to the other, thus resulting in a truly unique experience for each participant.