Contact FutureLearn for Support Maths Puzzles - Free Online Course Skip main navigation
We use cookies to give you a better experience, if that’s ok you can close this message and carry on browsing. For more info read our cookies policy.
We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.
Free online course

Maths Puzzles: Cryptarithms, Symbologies and Secret Codes

Explore and solve encrypted maths puzzles, in which numbers are replaced by letters or symbols, with this free online course.


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, starting from when you join
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Maths Puzzles: Cryptarithms, Symbologies and Secret Codes

Why join the course?

On this free online course, we’ll look at three types of maths puzzle, exploring their history, meeting the puzzlists who created them, and studying and practising problem-solving techniques.

Each week, we’ll tackle a different type of encrypted maths puzzle, including:

  • Cryptarithms: maths puzzles where the digits have been replaced by letters. You’ll need to practice your verbal arithmetic and use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to solve them.

  • Symbologies: maths puzzles where numbers are represented by symbols. We’ll explore everything from ancient Egyptian, Roman and Greek numerals to the language of computers to ISBN and bar codes.

  • Mathematical operator puzzles: maths puzzles where the numbers are given, but the mathematical operator is missing. For example, what operation does the asterisk stand for in *1320=6?

By the end of the course, you’ll have upgraded your problem-solving skills, gained knowledge and insight into the history, art and methodology of deciphering encrypted puzzles, and exercised your brain with fun challenges.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 21 secondsWhat does a mathematician do?

Skip to 0 minutes and 24 seconds A mathematician is a gate opener He provides the key To all the other natural sciences and beyond Hello, I’m Dr. Yossi Elran and I would like to invite you to join me on a fun-packed journey into the mystery of symbology puzzles. and I would like to invite you to join me on a fun-packed journey into the mystery of symbology puzzles.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds Together, you and I will learn how to decipher and crack some very unusual math codes, from ancient Egyptian number hieroglyphs to modern day bar codes and from Roman numerals to operator puzzles We will take a good look at solving cryptarithms - coded math problems where each digit is encoded by a different letter and we’ll even solve some very odd problems where really next to nothing is known By the end of the course, you’ll have significantly upgraded your problem-solving skills, gained knowledge and insight into the history, art and methodology of solving encrypted math problems and exercised your brain with a lot of fun challenges. Oh - I nearly forgot - we have a quest. To solve this!

Skip to 1 minute and 36 secondsA puzzle sent to us by highly intelligent beings from outer space. What are they trying to tell us? We’ll need to use all the brainpower generated throughout the course in order to solve this… Are you in for the challenge?

What topics will you cover?

  • Encoding maths puzzles, secret codes and symbologies
  • Solving and creating cryptarithms - puzzles where numbers in a mathematical expressions are encoded
  • Genres of cryptarithm including, ancient Hindu problems and alphametics
  • Special and unique cryptarithms, including prime numbers, logarithms, square roots and powers
  • Symbologies from ancient times to modern bar codes
  • The language of computers including, binary, ternary and gray codes
  • Decrypting ancient Egyptian number systems, Roman and Greek numerals
  • Barcode puzzles and how to solve them
  • Different types of operator puzzles including unary, binary and ternary
  • Modern operators including, logic operators, text operators and operators in Excel

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • Solve different kinds of cryptarithms and decipher symbologies
  • Synthesise the knowledge gained from all the different steps into a coherent view of the art of information concealment
  • Demonstrate puzzle solving skills
  • Improve problem solving skills and out-of-the-box thinking
  • Collaborate with other learners to solve problems
  • Apply problem solving strategies in new situations

Who is the course for?

The course is designed for anyone who enjoys popular science, recreational maths and solving maths puzzles and crosswords. There are no particular requirements.

Who will you learn with?

Yossi Elran

I'm a recreational mathematician and metagrobologist and head our institute's technology in education unit. I have a Ph.D. in theoretical quantum chemistry, and think math and science are really cool!

Sabine Segre

I am a mum of four, mathematician (PhD) and physicist. I have been doing research in a number of countries - Germany, Israel, Hawaii and Italy, and I like teaching very much.

Michal Elran

I am a math educator, certified editor and techno-pedagogue. I have an MSc. in computer science. science. My job is to create online recreational math activities for kids. I love working with them!

Who developed the course?

The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary basic research institutions in the natural and exact sciences.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £39.00

Statement of Participation £34.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.