What do safe crackers, spies, Ovaltine drinkers, and computer programmers all have in common? Codes, of course!
From ancient Rome to the German Enigma Code in the 1940’s and beyond, cryptography (the art of writing and breaking codes) has been used by societies across the globe to help turn the tides of world wars, encrypt our digital data, and even communicate for help from the middle of the ocean with an SOS call.
Learn more about the history of codes and how they are used today with the videos, interactive lessons, and activities below. Then, try spelling your name out in Morse code, create your own secret messages to send to friends (don’t forget a decoder!), or study up on cybersecurity to help keep your online info from being intercepted.
Creating & Cracking Codes
Secrets of the Code Talkers | The Warrior Tradition
Grades 3-5 In this Cyberchase clip, Matt shows Jackie and Digit how to make a decoder. He writes the alphabet on the top half of his yo-yo and the numbers one through twenty-six on the bottom half. He explains that by lining up the letter “A” with different numbers, they will be able to interpret different codes.
Cyber Codes and Data Encryption
Grades 6-12 Learn how encryption keeps online information private in this video from the NOVA Cybersecurity Lab. Your messages are coded by email programs and websites to prevent others from reading them. Codes have been used in messages for centuries. Caesar sent coded messages to his military in ancient Rome. In the 1940s, the Allied forces cracked the German Enigma Code, saving lives during World War II. Today, emails are protected through public-key cryptography, which uses numbers from both the sending and receiving email servers to create a key. However, not all online activity is encrypted and in some cases your browsing history, text messages, and data from apps can be intercepted.
12 Books to Excite Your Child’s Mathematical Imagination
PreK-4 Few things are better than curling up next to a loved one and listening to a good story. Read aloud time helps kids develop positive feelings about books, strengthens their vocabulary and helps them understand the world around them. Here are a few picture books that skillfully weave in mathematical concepts, offering a simple way to excite children’s imagination while increasing their comfort level with math.
Craft a Secret Message Card
Grades K-3 Secret messages and codes have been used throughout history — and by the Odd Squad — to keep messages private. They’re even used to figure out each agent’s special badge number. In this activity, your spy kids can practice math, spelling and writing skills while creating a secret message for a loved one!
Odd Squad Codebreaker Game
Grades 1-3 This game from Odd Squad will help children with counting and cardinal numbers, and identifying and counting patterns in 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, and 10’s.
Crack Hacker’s Safe Game
Grades 3-5 In this Cyberchase interactive, you must complete a series of shape, number and color patterns to crack Hacker’s safe. Given the first four terms in the pattern, you must select the correct color/number/shape combination of the next term.
Spy Techniques of the Revolutionary War: Culper Code Book
Grades 5-12 Decipher and create historically-accurate spy communications like those used by George Washington and the Culper Spy ring in the American Revolutionary War using this primary source and transcript. Leaders were dependent on reliable communication channels for military success; Washington’s secret intelligence served as a critical advantage over the oft-superior British forces. Put yourself in the shoes of the colonial spies and deepen your understanding of the challenges and purpose of spy communications.
Learn more about the history of cryptology and codebreaking on the Mountain Lake PBS Learning at Homeblock! Weekday afternoons from 1-3pm, these documentaries and programs are great for hybrid or distance instruction, and families looking to spend some extra, quality time together.
Tuesday, January 11
1 PM: Dayton Codebreakers
Throughout 1942, German U-boats were sinking hundreds of American ships in the Atlantic Ocean, effectively cutting the supply line to embattled ally England. In desperation, the United States Navy turned to the National Cash Register Company in Dayton, Ohio, to design and build code-breaking machines. The high-priority and highly classified project involved hundreds of civilians, Naval officers and one engineer of German descent whose insight and technical ability helped break the complex Enigma code. Dayton Codebreakers uncovers Joseph Desch’s role in helping end World War II, through interviews with eminent historians, scientists and honored war veterans.