Icon for: Janet Beissinger


University of Illinois Chicago

The CryptoClub Middle-Grade Afterschool Project

NSF Awards: 0840313, 1311977

2015 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

CryptoClub Afterschool: In a CryptoClub afterschool program, middle-grade students explore cryptography while applying mathematics to make and break secret codes. The playfulness and mystery of the subject engages students, and the afterschool environment allows them to learn at their own pace. Some activities involve moving around, for example following a trail of encrypted clues to find a hidden treasure, or competing in a relay race to be the first to gather and decrypt the parts of a secret message. Other activities involve sitting more quietly and thinking deeply about patterns that might help break a code.
CryptoClub Online: The CryptoClub Website (http:\cryptoclub.org) provides additional opportunities for applying and learning cryptography in a playful way. It currently includes cipher tools for encrypting and decrypting, message and joke boards where users decrypt messages or submit their own encrypted messages, historical comics about cryptography, and adventure games that involve secret messages. In addition, there are tools to help CryptoClub leaders. It has a registration system so users can earn points for activities they complete and a private group system, where leaders can set up message boards that only their members can access. A treasure hunt clue-generator aids leaders in creating land-based treasure hunts with encrypted clues.
CryptoClub Video Tutorials: In a related NSF ITEST project, CryptoClub students are making video tutorials that explain their solutions to math and cryptography problems. Our research is exploring ways to help students make good tutorials and whether they learn from making and viewing them.

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