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'Stage 5 Cipher Challenge' printed from http://nrich.maths.org/

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We have created a set of seven very difficult linked ciphers to crack. We recommend that you try them in turn: each gives a small clue on how to solve the next cipher. Note that you may have to spend several days mulling over some of these codes and you will need to make use of spreadsheets, Word or other similar tools to make any headway!

 

The challenge ciphers

As you try to decode these secret messages, remember that code-breaking is a mixture of a systematic application of mathematics, logic, intuiton and guesswork. 

 

First challenge cipher

Second challenge cipher

Third challenge cipher

Fourth challenge cipher

Fifth challenge cipher

Sixth challenge cipher

Seventh challenge cipher

 

Something to think about along the way, and the mathematical challenge for this problem

Imagine that you will frequently be attempting to decode encrypted messages coded using the methods employed in the seven challenge ciphers.

 

Create a flow chart showing how you might go about trying to crack such messages, assuming that you do not know at the outset which method of encoding is used for a given message. Of course, your flow chart will not guarantee the cracking of a code, but ideally will indicate a good way to go about trying to crack the codes.

 

As you create your flow chart you will see that decisions will need to be made based on probability, liklihood, complexity and speed of computation. You will need to think how best to include these decisions in your flow chart. This can be approached from various levels of complexity; try to solve using as much mathematics as you can bring to the problem.