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Math Course
Course CodeCODE
Year Opened2001
Sites OfferedCAR, HKU, LAN, LOS, SAR, SUN, SCZ
Previously OfferedKNE, LOU, STM, SRF
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Course Description

Cryptology (the subject) is the study of codes and ciphers: making them and breaking them. Cryptology offers an engaging curriculum, combining mathematical and historical background with hands-on cryptography and cryptanalysis, and looks at over two millenia of ciphers. The course begins with the distinction between codes and ciphers. Students learn the details of some of the most historically important ciphers, some dating back to Julius Caesar, others as cutting-edge as quantum computing. In order to fully understand these ciphers, and to learn to break them in particular, some mathematical background is needed. Students will accumulate an arsenal of techniques in probability, combinatorics, and number theory, to be properly armed against the onslaught of ciphers. In addition to going up against some of cryptography's greatest hits, students will also apply the principles of of cryptography to design their own codes and ciphers. In short, the "Black Chambers" of yore are conveniently brought to the CTY classroom.

One thing that sets Cryptology apart from other math courses at CTY is its interdisciplinary nature. Although the emphasis in the course is on mathematics, many cryptanalytic techniques bring linguistics into play as well. Furthermore, each cipher has its place in history: royals have been executed, treasures have remained hidden, and battles have been decided by the strength or weakness of a cipher. These features give Cryptology great crossover appeal, and make Cryptology an excellent choice for a student who has some interest in math, but is wary of taking courses involving more intensive mathematics.

Class History


In 09.2, Cryptology A and Latin had an ongoing fight on the most creative way to call in the students. Latin's original call was "LATIN! Let's Go!" while Cryptology had none. The Crypto class then butchered the Latin language to create a binary call in Latin. In the last week of class Latin staged an elaborate call while Crypto did theirs and retreated inside the building. To this day Latin and Crypto students insist that their class won, while we all know who the real winners were. GO CRYPTO!

CODE.B.CAR.17.2 was taught by Isaac and TA'd by Colette. The class featured many code-breaking competitions, as well as cool projects with other classes, including one with Cryptology A that involved creating ciphers and one with Electrical Engineering B that involved building binary decoders.


The history of Cryptography (the course) is brief, but compelling. In 2000, Stefan Treatman, then a Calculus instructor at Lancaster, was inspired by his work at the NSA, and filled out a proposal for a new course in cryptology. Normally, it takes two years or more for a course proposal to become a newly offered course, but the year-round staff at Baltimore was particularly interested in offering a new math course, and they were sufficiently impressed by Stefan's proposal that they set things up for Cryptology to be offered at Lancaster in 2001. In Session 1, two sections of Cryptology were offered: one was taught by Stefan, while "Sideshow" David Perry taught the other. Both men were working at the NSA during the rest of the year, so they were eminently suited to teach the (unclassified) details of codes, both historic and modern.

The first session of Cryptology was a great success. In fact, the course proved to be so popular, that when Sideshow had to teach Number Theory in Session 2, leaving but a single section of Cryptology, the administration considered hiring a second TA for Stefan, so he could teach a double-sized class. Stefan wound up teaching a regular class with a single TA that session, but things were looking bright for the future of the course. The next year, Cryptology was exported to other sites. Sideshow, who was a veteran instructor at Lancaster, was asked to teach Crypto in Carlisle for one session of 2002. The expansion continued, and now, Cryptology is offered at six of the eight sites. This makes Cryptology the most widely taught math course, equal in site coverage to Game Theory, and more prevalent than Math Sequence.

In 09.2, a student from Cryptology A named Steven Kwon forgot the term for a known or suspected plaintext (a crib). He instead called it a "blum." His classmates found this quite amusing, and blum became a popular all-purpose word among CODE A-ers. Later on in the session, both CODE A and B classes took a field trip to the National Cryptologic Museum. In the museum there was a wall covered in plaques engraved with names, and one of the people honored on these plaques had the last name "Blum." Whoever you are, Mr. T. Blum, we CTY you.

In 10.1, there was an especially friendly group of students in CODE C. These students decided to sing a song commonly sung about THEO's TA, Dimby, about their most magnificent and all-knowing TA, Zydney, whom they viewed with much respect. This led to many shouting matches between THEO and CODE C. This class was also responsible for setting the latest record for cracking the Enigma thanks to having a student from Germany. The CODE C students were often found quacking at prospective F&M students taking tours of the campus and at anyone else they saw during the day. Such a trend was noted by a particularly lovely squirrel in Logic who decided to make it publicly known on the sidewalk. "All things that quack are ducks. The CODE C students quack. The CODE C students are ducks. QED." We shall all be ducks.

In 12.1, the CODE C students (taught by Chris and TA'd by Ross) took on the name "Decepticodes," which led to much ridicule from the other students (mostly people who had been in the class the year before). But we don't care because we sound like a bunch of evil robots, and you don't.

In 12.2, CODE B was taught by Sideshow and TA'd by Ross. Hilarity ensued.

19.1' consisted of 7 boys and 8 girls who were all squirrels. Everyone was a perfectly sane individual. Sonia has 20 children with Oscar, a green elf that was a "Kelfin Klein" model. He was nosy and constantly trying to read encrypted messages. However, they divorced after Sonia found out that Oscar was cheating on her. This course also included two cults: Grassism (with Debbie, Sonia and Imani), and Gregism (Debbie and Mirabelle). During grassism rituals, one bows down to the grass while shouting "GRASS." Greg rituals included constantly talking about Daddy, stalking Daddy's Instagram and worshipping Daddy. This course was taught by Forrest Gordon, an instructor who was the target to most of the girls' stalking. The TA was Rachel. Half of the class also refer to themselves as "National Plumbers."

The Turing Spatula

The Turing Spatula is an item at Lancaster Session 2 CODE B that is passed down annually. The spatula is a relatively new item and has a quirky CTY history. In 2008, the Crypto TA Jake desperately wanted to play basement table tennis with his buddies but couldn't find any paddles in rural Lancaster. After much rumination, he had the brilliant idea of buying spatulas from the Salvation Army to act in the place of rackets. The spatulas were a success, and the CTY TAs enjoyed themselves greatly.

However, after the ping-pong craze ended, there was one lonely spatula left over. It sat in the crypto classroom for a week, and nobody knew what to do with it until the fateful final day. On the last full day of class, CODE B was taking their final, which is a day-long code-breaking-scavenger-hunt extravaganza. At one station, the students decoded the message to read "alanturing." Alan Turing is the great cryptanalyst who cracked the Enigma and had been a subject of discussion in Crypto class. However, for reasons unknown, four out of the five teams of students were not able to pronounce "alanturing" correctly. They pronounced it as aLANturing or Alan TOOOOring. To the shock of the teachers, only one team pronounced the name correctly.

To commend this precision, Jake the TA named the leftover spatula "The Turing Spatula" and gave it to a member of that team. Her name was Veronica Stewart, who, in addition to knowing how to pronounce "alanturing," had been an excellent member of the class. However, Victoria was a nomore, and knew that if she took the spatula, it would never again return to CTY. She strongly believed that there would be other students in Cryptology in future years who would also be deserving of the spatula. So, in an incredible act of selflessness, she gave it to the onemore Michaela Shelton, who brought it back the following year and gave it to Tortoise (the teacher), who passed it down the following year.

The spatula is given to a Crypto student who is an enthusiastic and committed member of the class, can pronounce "alanturing," and who would appreciate it. The spatula is given to the new holder on the final CTY class on Friday. It is traditional for the previous holder to hug the unsuspecting future-holder that Friday morning before class and say, "Enjoy the spatula" and walk away without explaining anything. This results in much confusion on the part of the soon-to-be holder. By this time, the previous holder had, of course, returned the spatula to Tortoise and inquired about the new holder. This is a new tradition and we will see how long it lasts.

The holders of the spatula have been:

2008-09: Veronica Stewart/Michaela Shelton 2009-10: Ella Park-Chan 2010-11: Maria Shea 2011-12: Gia Rigoli 2012-13: Temitayo Wolff 2013-14: Jada Ito 2014-15: Lauren Ingram 2015-16: Chirag Kumar 2018-19: Sabine Chu


SAR.13.1: Code in 2013 was a great experience, and with a sassy TA, Leigh Ann and a legally blind, awesome teacher, Chris, the class was rarely boring. It was a very hands-on course, and it was not particularly hard. In a flash flood, the students of CODE, crowded under the Harder Hall, shouting "Chris! Follow the sounds of our voices!". I love you guys and I miss you guys a lot.

"CODE, LET'S GO" -Leigh Ann

SAR.14.1: Code was taught by the awesome Christian, who had previously taught at Carlisle and was TA'd by Leigh. Although the class had a lot of troubles with Caesar shifts during Becky's Stormy Night Treasure Hunt and had a seven-hour midterm, it was still a lot of fun. The midterm turned out to be a Candyland-inspired game of crypto-warfare, where four teams, Red allied with Gold, and Blue allied with Silver, tried to take each other's capitals. The only communication allowed was writing in ciphertext on chalk/whiteboards. Unfortunately or fortunately, Blue and Silver won, with Red completely wiped out. As said by Theo, "It is best that Red go back to Cupcake Commons (Red's home base) so that they can spend their last few days with their families."

SAR 16.1: Leigh ascended to the position of instructor. The TA, Phil, is notable for his ability and willingness to do backflips during break. He also had a tendency to use the entirety of the alphabet as variables while demonstrating simple mathematics during night session. The review for the final exam turned out to be a scavenger hunt around campus looking for various encrypted clues. On the final day, the movie "The Imitation Game" was watched with the logic class, during which quite a bit of both napping and "Frisbee" (stolen dining hall plate) signing took place.

Some notable memories:

  • Ceci and Henry's quest to make magic squares from 1 - 10 (The only squares they did not complete were the 6x6 and 10x10 squares)
  • Adam's comment after playing the Crypto Club games: "Did anyone else find Becky really attractive?" (The game in question can be found here: [1])
  • Princess Frostine
  • The adventures of the Cryptokids, the Cryptomonster, and the cannibals

SAR 17.2: Cryptology was taught by James aka Mr. Clark aka Batman, and the TA was Mr. Matt. PHISH

SAR 18.2: Cryptology was taught by Dr. Newman (also known as Dr. Nemo, or as the girls called him, Noctor Demo) and TA Leslie Reiffen. Noctor Demo was a god at Frisbee.

Some notable memories:

  • 20-minute bathroom breaks upstairs in Bolton/buying out entire sections of the vending machine
  • Kevin the god/Kessiah: important quotes from him include "Luke is my favorite girl", "I love you, Luke!", "I watch Luke sleep", and "Papa Westmark!"
  • To keep in touch with Kevin, who lives in Shanghai, the girls in the class downloaded WeChat and received a red packet with 1 cent each from him much to their delight.
  • The scavenger hunt on the last Thursday, but everyone gave up after station 4 except Luke and Carmen, who got as far as Station 8

SAR 19.1: The instructor was Marcus and the TA was Pat (a Chad)

Interesting and not very interesting anecdotes and facts:

  • We were yelled at ONCE (meaning we got in trouble once)
  • Our TA made us believe he was 20 by saying he was the same age as a student's brother (who was 20). After saying he'd consumed alcohol, he said he was 24 (which turned out to be his real age)
  • Our TA said he never showered
  • Our TA put his shoes on students' desks
  • Our TA would walk around barefoot
  • When it rained the ravers (only two of them) would practice in the hallway
  • The only left-handed person was Marcus
  • There were 3 girls and 12 boys
  • We talked about spam emails, which resulted in us finding out how to get Marcus's email, which resulted in him receiving a numerous quantity of them (which did not include please nor have a good day). It also resulted in us learning that Marcus was smarter than the head of his department.
  • Our TA told one person that they had sun poisoning
  • How to win Marcus's computer games: hacking
  • Our TA heard on girl curse once and said it was unladylike (tsk tsk). He asked her if her parents were okay with her say "those kinds of words" and if they knew she said "those kinds of words." When she didn't respond, he said, "That's what I thought." He said that he didn't believe in cursing and never did. A few days later however, Marcus said something to which Pat said "Ohhhh, sh*t" (it happened to be very quiet right then). Later we confronted him on his curse. He said that he'd lied because he had been cursing since he was 13 and had started cursing in front of his parents at 16.
  • One person was such a slow reader that halfway through the course it was decided that she would read in the hallway to not be distracted. However, she used this time to roll down the hall (on the chair). *I'd like to mention that at the "open house" Marcus said everyone had finished the book, stopped, looked at me, and asked if I had finished it. -Isabella)

Although this might paint our TA and Instructor in a negative light, we'd like to stress that it was a great class and both were very capable.

San Rafael

Jon was supposed to be teaching there for both sessions on 2016, but he was sent to LOS last minute to TA for Cody in 16.2, much to his dissatisfaction. However, Jon was seen again in LOS 17.2 TAing for one of the Cryptology classes.

Los Angeles

LOS 22.2: Taught by Matt and TAed by Ali. Life in room 312 included:

  • "POTAATOO" and eventually "TATOPOO" - Xavier
  • CTY IS POTATO - playfair cipher
  • Ripped Ali
  • Simon Singh ('cause you're Indian)
  • The Matrices Incident (it worked out in the end)
  • Justin vs. Ali in the daily Palace games
  • Getting the soccer ball out of the tree
  • "Why do you laugh? People say "ha-ha-ha" but you say "hoo-hoo-hoo" - Mario
  • "Cameron, run, I want to chase you" - Also Mario


Although the math involved in Cryptology is, in general, not too complicated, the applications are specialized. Thus, Cryptography demands an instructor with some degree of specialization as well. While both of the instructors at Lancaster are experts in the field, other sites have not been so lucky. Since Cryptology has partially displaced Math Sequence at many sites, some sections outside Lancaster have had instructors with little experience outside the high school curriculum. In one unfortunate instance, one session in 2002 was so poorly taught that many parents asked for a tuition refund -- and got one. Other instructors contacted Stefan or Sideshow for guidance. Hopefully, as Cryptology grows older, its instructors will be more familiar with the material, but be careful for now. If you are planning to take Cryptology at a site other than Lancaster, you may want to ask others who took it at the same site about their instructor. If you are uncertain, the curriculum is quite engaging and might make up for a mediocre instructor. At Los Angeles, the Cryptology course is home to the famed TA, Victor.