About the CryptoClub Project

The CryptoClub Project develops materials that harness the allure of secret messages to teach cryptography and mathematics. In addition, it offers training and resources for teachers and informal educators who want to introduce students to an exciting and important application of mathematics in a playful and engaging way.

The project is based on the belief that teaching students cryptography is a great opportunity to immerse them in mathematical thinking and problem solving, while introducing them to a topic that is important in today’s world.


The CryptoClub project began at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is now located at the University of Chicago’s Center for STEM Education. Through a series of grants from the National Science Foundation, the team has developed books and digital activities for teaching cryptography to middle school students. These curriculum materials were developed by mathematicians who have experience in mathematics education in both formal and informal settings, and tested by teachers and students in an iterative design process over six years, including a 2012-13 field test in 29 national sites.

The project has trained over 250 educators who have led CryptoClub programs for over 3000 students in locations around the country, including schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, libraries, 4-H Clubs, YMCAs, and other informal educational sites.

Current Work

The project is currently funded by a five-year National Science Foundation grant to expand the program and increase its impact. The work includes a partnership with the National Girls Collaborative Project to develop a network of training sites around the country that will offer CryptoClub training workshops for educators. It also includes continued collaboration with the educational software development company, Eduweb, to develop new digital cryptography games. Online professional development modules for teachers and a system of digital cryptography badges for students are being created.

CryptoClub Team

Photo of Janet Beissinger

Janet Beissinger, Principal Investigator

Janet is a School Development Director at University of Chicago STEM Education, and an emerita professor in the Mathematics Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She has taught 7th grade in the National Teacher Corps, graduate and undergraduate mathematics courses at UIC, and numerous teacher workshops. In addition to co-developing the CryptoClub books and website, she is a senior author of the NSF-funded K-5 Math Trailblazers curriculum and was a co-director of UIC’s Family Math leader training program.

Photo of Bonnie Saunders

Bonnie Saunders, Co-Principal Investigator

Bonnie is Clinical Professor Emerita of Mathematics at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has worked in the mathematical preparation of teachers at all levels since 1994. One of her primary interests has been the development of materials for teaching discrete mathematics, including cryptography. Her passion is to engage students and teachers in exciting, modern mathematics that includes real world applications, problem solving, computing, and reasoning and proof. Her involvement in informal science programs includes cryptography classes in the Northwestern Gifted and Talented program, cryptography workshops at Chicago Public Libraries, as well as the development of CryptoClub materials.

Photo of Cheryl Moran

Cheryl Moran, Senior Leader

Cheryl assists with gathering and posting resources on the VLC and is a visionary for the site’s content and structure. She is a School Development Manager and Senior Curriculum Developer at University of Chicago STEM Education. She is one of the founders of the Everyday Mathematics Virtual Learning Community which currently has approximately 50,000 members. As an Everyday Mathematics author, experienced professional developer, veteran classroom teacher, and CryptoClub teacher, Cheryl Moran brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the VLC team.

Photo of Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns, Senior Curriculum Developer

Sarah is a Senior Curriculum Developer and School Development Manager at UChicago STEM Education. Sarah has contributed to a wide variety of projects at UChicago STEM Education, on topics ranging from elementary mathematics to financial literacy to teacher interventions for improving the quality of classroom conversations. As an Everyday Mathematics author, Sarah has extensive experience with the development of instructional tools. She also has taught, coached, and designed and delivered professional development in a wide variety of schools and settings. She is interested in continuing to explore innovative ways of bringing a love of cryptography and mathematics to students.

VLC Development Team

Margaret Sharkey, UChicago STEM Ed Technology Director and VLC designer

George Vythoulkas, Lead programmer