15 Ways to Use a Deck of Cards in a Computer Science Class

When I was taking my second semester of Java at Carnegie Mellon I had the task of modeling the Pontifex cypher from Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. As a huge nerd, I knew the purpose of the cypher but writing it let me truly understand its cleverness.

The Pontifex solitaire cypher was written by security expert Bruce Schneier as a secure, offline cypher. It also turns out it wasn’t just my professor that used cards to teach computing. Dr Susan H. Rodger of Duke University, a member of the team behind our Kickstarter, reached out to her CS educator friends and collected 15 more examples–you can read them here. They include everything from the obvious (teaching arrays and searches) to the delightful (using magic tricks to teach math).

As a reminder, we’re at 66 hours until the Notable Women in Computing Kickstarter closes, so if you haven’t bought yours, you join over 350 cool people and become a Backer. If you’re already a Backer: thank you!

PS: Megan Smith, CTO of the United States, now also has a copy of our deck thanks to Katy Dickinson!


Inspirational Quote:

“None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody – a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony or a few nuns – bent down and helped us pick up our boots.” — Thurgood Marshall

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