About CryptoClubs

In a CryptoClub, students explore cryptography through games and informal activities that involve secret messages. They apply mathematics from the middle school curriculum as they make and break secret codes.

Some CryptoClubs meet in schools as afterschool clubs or elective classes taught during the school day. Others are part of afterschool programs through organizations such as YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and 4H. The CryptoClub curriculum is flexible, so the length of programs varies. Some CryptoClubs meet a few times a week for about 10 weeks. Others meet weekly all year.

Program features

  • encrypting and decrypting
  • messages to crack
  • Cryptography games
  • Website activities
  • Resources for teachers to create activities for their students

These activities promote

  • Team work
  • Self confidence
  • Good mathematical practices
  • Computational thinking
  • 21st Century Skills
    Having fun while learning!
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What happens in a CryptoClub?

During a typical session,

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Students are introduced to a cipher (method of encrypting), and then practice it through games and activities that involve secret messages.
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relay races: teams runback and forth, competing to be the first to gather and decrypt the parts of a secret message.
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Treasure hunts: students follow a trail of encrypted clues around the school to find a hidden treasure.
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In other activities student sit more quietly and think deeply about patterns that might help to break a code.
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Cryptoclub.org provides additional games and challenges for continued exploration
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Academic Content

The CryptoClub curriculum immerses students in mathematical thinking and problem solving. It provides opportunities to explore important topics through informal activities that promote cooperative learning.

Mathematics Topics covered

decimals & percents
division w/ remainder
common factors
negative numbers
pre-algebra skills
pattern recognition
problem solving

CryptoClub activities give students the opportunity to apply mathematical concepts, which they have usually encountered during their formal schooling. In the real-world setting of cryptography, students improve their understanding, reinforce their skills, and increase their appreciation of mathematics.

Exploring mathematical patterns is a core experience for CryptoClub students. In CryptoClub, students use mathematics to encrypt with some of the classical ciphers and they look for patterns in encrypted messages that can help them crack the ciphers used.

Messages encrypted with authentic ciphers usually involve mathematical patterns. Using mathematics to encrypt a message makes it easier for the sender to communicate to the recipient how the message should be decrypted. However, it usually puts patterns into the encrypted text than an adversary could use to crack the code. The evolution of cryptography has historically involved a give and take between those who develop more complicated ciphers and those who develop sophisticated methods for breaking the ciphers. This has culminated in modern-day ciphers, such as RSA, which, for practical purposes, is currently not breakable. But the development of modern-day ciphers has spurred mathematical research into topics such as methods of factoring large numbers that could make it possible to crack them.

Cryptography is the science of secret messages. It is important to everyone in today’s world, as they shop and bank online, use ATM machines, and use email. CryptoClub activities make students aware of basic notions of encryption prepare them for jobs in STEM fields in which data security is important.

The program includes more than unscrambling letters or shifting the alphabet around. Cryptography requires mathematics such as multiplication, division with remainder, common factors and large prime numbers. It also requires coders and decoders to create and find patterns, which requires a deeper level of thinking.

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Who is CryptoClub for?

Cryptoclub appeals to students of all abilities. Students enjoy the problem solving involved with cracking, decoding, and encoding the various ciphers as they gain understanding of an exciting real world application of mathematics. Students who usually do well in math thrive in CryptoClub because it uses mathematics related to what they study in school. But students who do not usually excel in math often experience success in Cryptoclub because it uses mathematics in different ways.

Testimonials from CryptoClub Students

“We all had fun together and I got to make new friends.”
“What I liked the most is that it made me better at math.”
“Yeah, it was really cool – a new experience.”
“I liked it because it was something new.”
“It was something I hadn’t heard about.”
“I learned how to do more math things.”