Education Technology

Math and the cryptic missive

Cipher Solvers challenges your students to identify patterns, unravel clues and triangulate a point on a treasure map.

It’s an ideal opportunity for students to have fun solving problems while exploring, analyzing and understanding concepts like:

  • Equations of lines through points
  • Midpoints of segments
  • Equations of perpendicular lines
  • Intersections of lines

University of Michigan mathematics and engineering professor Martin J. Strauss, Ph.D., helped develop this fresh, engaging STEM Behind Hollywood activity, which is available for TI-Nspire™ CX and TI-84 Plus CE graphing technology.

Reason and logic

Cipher Solvers promotes the sense-making and problem-solving habits of mind that mystery writer Edgar Allan Poe used to break ciphers.

Familiar technology

The treasure hunt helps students connect the mathematics of triangulation with everyday applications such as the GPS in smart devices.

Career connections

The STEM principles learned in Cipher Solvers are the foundations for careers in computer programming, cyber security and cryptography.

Learn by playing

Martin J. Strauss, Ph.D., specializes in teaching and researching theoretical computer science, algorithms, security and cryptography at the University of Michigan.

But he has a simpler message for the next generation of innovators and inventors:

“Play. Experiment with math and science. You’ll find concepts in those disciplines are connected to all sorts of academic and career opportunities,” he says.

Strauss, who holds dual appointments in Michigan’s mathematics and electrical engineering and computer science departments, takes that message to high school students through the university’s Michigan Math and Science Scholars summer enrichment program.

And, as a consultant with the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange, he collaborated with Texas Instruments Education Technology to develop the STEM Behind Hollywood activity, Cipher Solvers.

“It’s a game, but it’s a game with a very real purpose — to get kids involved in understanding big, critical concepts. Important advances in math and computer science often come through fun play,” he says.


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