Researchers: Daria Tsoupikova, Vera Pless, Janet Beissinger, Rong Zeng
Funding: NSF #0099220
Treasure Hunt is an interactive educational game for middle grade children based on the use of Cryptography. The goal of this game is to find a secret treasure hidden in the old castle. To proceed through the story and get through the encountered obstacles children must decrypt messages using mathematical skills. Cryptography - the science of sending secret messages - is an active area of research for both mathematicians and computer scientists. It is of increasing importance in society today, with applications all around us, from Internet security to the protection of diplomatic secrets, and it has interesting applications in history. Children have long been interested in secret codes. The game promotes electronic multimedia for youth that support the learning of cryptography and mathematics.
Treasure Hunt is built on current work in mathematics education by Vera Pless and Janet Beissinger from Institute for Math and Science Education at University of Illinois at Chicago. It was developed by Rong Zeng and Daria Tsoupikova using Macromedia Flash software. Flash allowed integrated video, text, audio, animation, graphics, database connection, navigation and user interface. We believe that the availability of tools like Flash and the increasing bandwidth finally make the delivery of high-quality games over the Internet feasible. Treasure Hunt helps for revival of thinking games that both entertain and challenge students, while exposing them to concepts relevant to their formal studies. The game environment consists of 2-D objects, animations, visual surprises, variety of sound effects including natural sounds, such as wind, rain, water drops, and recorded voice over (narration). The mathematics topics involved in the game include addition and subtraction with positive and negative numbers, and conceptual foundations of modular arithmetic. Players crack messages encrypted with Caesar ciphers, which are special cases of Substitution ciphers. They use interactive cipher wheels and tables to decrypt. The game is published on the Internet as a part of the Cryptoclub web site - an online community for children, students, and teachers interested in the area of Cryptography.
The project development united mathematicians, artists, educators, students from after-school programs, pilot teachers, and graduate students from multiple disciplines at the University of Illinois at Chicago in interdisciplinary work offering them unique opportunities for collaboration. The evaluation of the game was done in classrooms, in school-based math clubs, and in a museum-based summer camp. The game motivated students of all ability levels and appealed to girls, as well as boys. The playful environment held students attention as they solved long mathematical problems to proceed through the game. The game can be viewed online at the following URL: (The URL has a link to download PC or Mac projector versions of the game) cryptoclub.math.uic.edu/treasurehunt/treasure_new.swf. It requires Flash 5 player (or upper version). Flash player can be downloaded from Macromedia web site at the Downloads section, prior to viewing the game.
Copyright by the Institute for Math and Science Education of the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Date: January 1, 2004 - Ongoing