Examining Historical Codes


15-20 Minutes

  • Examine historical codes

  • Decode a message

  • Paper or notebook

  • Writing tool


We’re thinking about

the question: 

"How can we communicate with others to share our thoughts and ideas?"

Your challenge this week is to connect to someone using a “Coded Message.”

Let's Get Started!

Do you know what these mean? 

Guess what? You just cracked a code!

Many amazing codes have been used throughout history.



a system of signals, letters, numbers, or symbols used to send messages, sometimes secretly


Culper Spy Ring Code from the American Revolution

It may be hard for us to read this writing, but in 1778 this code was used to send secret messages to George Washington during the Revolutionary War. It has 763 numbers that are code for different words, names, and places.

Morse Code


This code was created to send messages by telegraph, which is a way to send sound messages far away through a wire. It uses short and long sounds (called dots and dashes) to represent letters, numbers, and punctuation. It was used more often in the 1800s and 1900s, including in World Wars I and II. It is not commonly used anymore.

Binary Code


This is a way for computers and electronics to communicate. It is made up of two numbers: “1” and “0.” Using these numbers in different combinations, computers can talk to each other and represent data. Ever heard of a bit or a byte? A single “0” or “1” is a bit, and a group of eight “0s” and “1s” together make a byte!

Your challenge this week: Connect to someone using a “Coded Message.”

Today, you will read some coded messages!

Use this key...

...and try to solve these codes!

Want to learn more about codes?


You can read about the pigpen cipher, which turns a tic-tac-toe board into an easy-to-use and memorable code! 

Ready for Day 2?

On day 2, you will learn about Morse code and create a first draft of your "Coded Message."