What other interesting examples of codes from history or the modern-day (digital or non-digital) can you find to inspire or support a lesson about encoding and decoding messages?
The first printed book on cryptography was created by Johannes Trithemius in around 1518. Many thought his writing were him dabbling with the devil, and he ended up having to resign his post as the German abbot.
One of his many codes is known as the Ave Maria cipher, which is in a book called Polygraphia. It consists of 384 columns of letters from the alphabet. Each letter has a corresponding code word. An example of this is the word ‘Monk’ which is ciphered into ‘gloriosus mansionem immortalem’. It could be deciphered by reversing the act of ciphering.
Students could be given a simplified version of the Ave Maria to create secret codes and messages. Students could also have a discussion about how the book looks, what is interesting about the layout, and how effective they think this type of coding would be. To further this, the teacher could introduce other factors of the time period from the 1500’s and discuss how this type of ‘coding’ worked/ not worked.