The following is taken from a web article found on the Chicago Tribune website:
A team of University of Illinois at Chicago professors has crafted a math curriculum based on cryptography, the science of making and breaking codes. They were recently awarded a five-year, $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to turn the lessons into an after-school program to be used across the nation.
Janet Beissinger and fellow UIC professor Vera Pless sought to harness that natural intrigue when they co-wrote “The Cryptoclub: Using Mathematics to Make and Break Secret Codes,” a 2006 narrative introducing middle school students to mathematical concepts through the encryption and decryption of codes.
As the story unfolds, students use math basics such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and factors to create their own codes — as well as crack the codes crafted by their peers.
Some problems are as simple as shifting letters of the alphabet or substituting numbers for letters. Others involve complicated patterns based on exponents or division with remainders.
Beissinger said lessons in code breaking help students realize that math is an evolving field with real-world applications, not just a set of equations scrawled out in a notebook.
“Math isn’t an old subject that’s all figured out,” she said. “There are new things to discover, and they’re important things.”
Here’s a couple more resources for the classroom teacher:
The Cryptoclub: Using Mathematics to Make and Break Secret Codes (Amazon source of the paperback book by Beissinger and Pless)