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Icon for: Amanda Sopko


Indian Hill Middle School

The Mathematics of Cryptography and Cyber-Security, A Challenge Based Learnin...

NSF Awards: 1404766

2016 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

The mathematics unit highlighted in this video was created to build student interest in cryptography through realistic and engaging activities. A series of hands-on activities demonstrate important cryptographic systems and protocols. Students were introduced to protocols and schemes such as Diffie-Hellman in order to understanding present day encryption and decryption. It is important that students understand how these protocols work. As a result, the final challenge in this unit requires students to develop a set of protocols to successfully transmit coins without interception. The strategies used to increase student interest provided them the opportunity to discuss and use present-day cryptographic systems as well as experiment with their own designed protocols making cryptography accessible to middle school students.

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Discussion from the NSF 2016 STEM For All Video Showcase (6 posts)
  • Icon for: Jennifer Knudsen

    Jennifer Knudsen

    Senior Mathematics Educator
    May 17, 2016 | 09:41 a.m.

    this is great! Is it possible to see the student blogs?

  • Icon for: Pati Ruiz

    Pati Ruiz

    Dean of Studies
    May 17, 2016 | 11:09 a.m.

    Secrets seem like a great hook for students to learn about cryptography. Secretly passing messages and learning about cryptography through a game (final challenge) seems like a great approach!

    What does the end of this lesson look like? Is there a competition or a showcase with other students or adults in the community? Is there a metacognitive piece at the end – in addition to the ones you discuss in the video? There is a lot of learning going on, how are you capturing it – is this all done on the blog and in their notebooks?

  • Icon for: Jenna Marks

    Jenna Marks

    Doctoral Student in Cognitive Studies in Education
    May 17, 2016 | 08:06 p.m.

    This answers the question I posed in another video your team (or a related team at Cincinnati) posted about high school cryptography (http://stemforall2016.videohall.com/presentatio...), which was how could this be scaled to middle school. I think you’ve done an excellent job of taking a complex topic and making it palpable to such a young audience.

    Have you done any quantitative or qualitative analysis of student motivation during and after these tasks? For example, I would be interested to see how this unit affects engagement in the math classroom.

  • Icon for: Avron Barr

    Avron Barr

    May 18, 2016 | 09:45 a.m.

    Interesting project. Great video. Thanks Amanda. You introduced a lot of concepts, besides cryptography. How long was this unit? How many students? Any plans to continue this work?

  • Kevin Adams

    May 22, 2016 | 12:03 p.m.


    What a wonderfully interesting project! I was wondering if you had any specific videos that you use with the students that gives them a historical perspective and a modern day perspective.

  • Icon for: Andrew Izsak

    Andrew Izsak

    May 23, 2016 | 02:45 a.m.

    Hi Amanda,

    What an interesting project. I was wondering what main math ideas were developed in the project. There was mention of modular arithmetic. Bar codes are another interesting application of modular arithmetic.


  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.