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Project Playbook: Educator Edition

Binary Code Cracking

Observe and interact with digital and analog signals.


Coding is the language we use to communicate with computers. It’s how programmers are able to develop software for everyone to use. It is a language that can set young minds on a path to a successful future. In this game, we will introduce students to ASCII binary code.

The modern binary system was developed in 1679 by Gottfried Leibniz. Leibniz was fascinated by the I Ching from China, noting that its hexagrams correspond to binary numbers. In binary code, letters are replaced by a series of 0s and 1s. In this game, students will be tasked to decipher binary code numbers into their corresponding letters to reveal the hidden message. Use the character legend below to crack the code!


  1. Another form of binary is braille, the writing system used by the visually impaired.
  2. The longest binary number sequence memorized in one minute is 270, and was achieved by Aravind Pasupathy in April 2015.

❏ Paper
❏ Pencil


  1. Use the key provided to translate the secret code below
  2. Student and educators can generate their own secret codes and share them with one another to decode them


OBJECTIVE: Students will be able to integrate scientific and technical information on analog and digital signals to support claims that digital are more reliable.


  • What are analog and digital signals?
  • Which signals are more reliable than others? Why?


  1. Students are presented the binary code cracking activity
  2. Students try and crack the code
    1. Allow students a few minutes without the “key”
    2. Once students frustration sets in provide them the “key” to allow them to solve it
  3. Reflect with students
    1. What are the benefits of communicating in 0s and 1s?
    2. Was this a more efficient way of communicating?


  1. Students are presented with a black and white image of the Two Bit Circus Foundation logo
    1. Provide students with paper and ask them to draw a copy of the image presented to them
    2. Students will struggle and no two copies will look perfectly identical
  2. Next present to students a black and white “pixelated” version of the logo on graph paper
    1. Provide graph paper and ask students to make a copy of the drawing.
    2. Students should find it much easier to make the drawing now, as they shade in specific boxes
  3. Perform a TPS (Think-Pair-Share)
    1. Which method of creating the logo was simpler?
    2. Faster?
    3. Which method produced the least differences in copies amongst your peers?
    4. Which method was more reliable?
    5. Which method is more efficient?
  4. Compare/contrast the binary code-breaking activity and the logo activity
    1. Using letters is like drawing the picture freehand (analog)
    2. Using the binary (0 and 1) is like drawing shading in boxes
  5. Evaluate
    1. TPS responses from evidence
    2. Comparing and contrasting using reasoning


  1. Ask students to research online
    1. Analog vs. Digital signals
      1. Students should gather information
      2. Synthesize into a paragraph
    2. Why are digital signals better than analog over long distances?
      1. Gather information and synthesize
  2. Teacher may facilitate learning through questioning and shared teacher research
    1. Analog vs. digital text
    2. Video analog vs. digital
    3. How images are stored in a computer
  3. Students should use their knowledge and reflect on their past two activities
    1. Which method in the above activities could be considered analog? Digital?
    2. Does your research understanding of analog and digital match your conclusion about
      1. Efficiency?
      2. Reliability?
    3. It should be noted that digital is better over longer distances because it is less affected by interference. Similarly, their drawings using the graphical method and a series of 0s and 1s are less likely to be distorted than an analog picture (interference from us effects the visual)
  4. Evaluate
    1. Research methods
    2. Synthesizing and evaluating of information
    3. Reasoning


  1. Ask students
    1. Is the idea of a digital signal new?
    2. How might we have communicated in the past with analog and digital signals? (don’t tell them this!)
      1. Traditional mail, talking, music are all analog signals
      2. Morse code is one of the earliest forms of digital signals
  2. Present students with a sample of morse code
    1. Morse Code alphabet and numbers
    2. Have them construct an argument whether it is digital or analog
      1. Students should use their previous activities for evidence
      2. Discuss the use over distances
        1. Reliability
        2. Efficiency
        3. Interference
    3. How are modern computers and the way they work similar to Morse code?
      1. Are they more efficient?
      2. How?
    4. History of Morse code
  3. Evaluate
    1. Evaluating evidence
    2. Reasoning from evidence


Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals.


RST.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.

RST.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

RST.6-8.9 Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.

WHST.6-8.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Level 3: Strategic Thinking
Level 4: Extended Thinking