[Author Prev][Author Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Author Index][Thread Index]

Re: [school-discuss] CIA, NSA, Children, &c

Hi Joel,

Interesting subject. I'm not sure how I feel about intelligence
agencies providing these services aimed at children. While they are
the foremost experts on the topic, their aims might be a little off of
what we want for the general population. However, I have found that
the use of code making and code breaking is an extremely powerful way
to engage kids in mathematics.

Normally, math instruction is taught as "remember these facts," or
"remember this table," or some lame word problem about "Bobby and his
apples." This would bore anyone because it lacks relevancy and the
light bulb moment of "aha! this is cool!" that kids (or anyone for
that matter) thrive on.

Children sometimes make up codes independently with their friends,
without adult suggestion. Usually they are basic substitution schemes
like replacing one word with another, or using an abbreviation. I've
found that around 8 or 9 years old (mastery of addition/subtraction,
working with multiplication and division), people are ready to grasp
mapping numbers to letters. The Ceasar cipher is a great introduction,
only requiring addition and subtraction. There is a standard
manipulative for kids to use to make the concept concrete. Further,
basic statistics can be taught in the context of frequency analysis
and homework assignments can be given in the form of cryptograms,
little puzzles on the level of crosswords.

Teaching cryptology to children is exciting. It demonstrates the
utility of mathematics and provides an example of how letters and
numbers can interact. Most math classrooms are "boring" because they
usually lack context. The questions "why is this interesting?" and
"how can I use this" are real and important, but often brushed aside.
Context isn't limited to cryptology. Sound and music is a wonderful
way to get across concepts in trigonometry (Think sound waves and
overtones) by mapping it to something relevant and have an aesthetic
sensory component as a bonus!

If you teach kids code making and code cracking they won't all turn
into cloak and dagger types. What they will do is have a more
enjoyable experience understanding how the mechanics of math work,
rather than memorizing multiplication tables and doing drills. These
programs have been around for a while, the only thing to keep an eye
on is the advertising component. If they start teaching wiretapping
and water boarding then yeah...might want to say something. Just my 2
cents ;)


Hands on cryptography assignment in a box

In Code - A great book about basic paper and pencil cryptography, very

On Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 3:23 PM, Joel Kahn<jj2kk4@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> The Central Intelligence Agency is aiming at
> getting kids interested in doing their kind
> of work at an early age:
> https://www.cia.gov/kids-page/
> So is the National Security Agency:
> http://www.nsa.gov/kids/home.shtml
> I can't help thinking of the government-organized
> and children-oriented group called the "Spies" in
> Orwell's _Nineteen Eighty-Four_ . . . .
> By contrast, the Defense Intelligence Agency
> doesn't seem to be focused on anyone younger
> than college-bound high school students:
> http://www.dia.mil/employment/student/index.htm
> At what grade level should cryptology be
> introduced into the curriculum? How about
> wire-tapping (with or without warrants)?
> How about water-boarding?
> Any thoughts?
> Joel