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Shh...It's a Secret!

Darri Stephens
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
 55-75 minutes


Have you ever wanted to tell a secret, but tell it in such a way that outside listeners wouldn't understand it? Why, you need a secret code! Codes can camouflage a message by using pictures, sounds, letters, gestures, and/or numbers. You can make up your own rules for a code and share these rules with the friend you want to read it. A code is successful only if someone can reverse the rules and decipher it. By viewing clips of the Cyberchase episode, "Codename: Icky," students will see our heroes make and decipher several different codes, and begin constructing their own rules for a code. Students will also learn to express themselves using gestures, letters, symbols, and numbers to further examine the phenomenon of coding.

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:
  • analyze and evaluate a series of rules for a code;
  • apply the series of rules to strategically decipher a code;
  • construct a secret message using a code;
  • communicate their thinking and processes coherently and clearly to others;
  • interact with an educational website to test their coding skills.


From the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards, grades 3-5, available online at

Algebra for grades 3-5 students:
  • represent and analyze patterns and functions, using words, tables, and graphs;
  • look for and apply relationships between varying quantities to make predictions;
  • investigate numerical and geometric patterns and express them mathematically in words or symbols. They should analyze the structure of the pattern and how it grows or changes, organize this information systematically, and use their analysis to develop generalizations about the mathematical relationships in the pattern.

Media Components


Cyberchase #116: Codename: Icky

Web sites:

Cave Paintings
This site contains several photographs of ancient cave drawings.

Morse Code Translater
Type in a message and watch it get translated into Morse Code symbols, and then actually listen to the sounds of the coded message.

Your Name in Heiroglyphics
Type in your name and click the button to see how it would look in the ancient Egyptian language of hieroglyphics.

Cyberchase: Crack the Code
The award-winning online companion to the PBS series, Cyberchase. The site contains multiple interactivities, downloadable video clips, and background information on the characters. Watch Digit in his own webisode, and then try to crack his code in order to save the cyber citizens of Valussa. This website requires the Shockwave plug-in, available at


For the class:
  • Chart paper and marker or blackboard and chalk
For each group of 4-5 students:
  • Page 22 from Digit's Cyberchef book handout (included)
For each student:
  • Pencil and paper
  • The Zokzyvg Code handout (included)