The Maze Runner Universe

Book Info

Grade Level
Middle School, High School
STEM Concepts
Psychology, Engineering, Nutrition, Cryptology, Kinesiology, Math

Sixteen-year-old Thomas awakens in a dark, metal box. He remembers his name, but knows nothing of his past. He and several other boys are prisoners in the heart of a vast maze. Every day they run the maze searching for a way out. Every night the maze fills with robotic monsters and its walls change positions. What is the maze? Who is experimenting on the boys? Will they stay alive long enough to find a way out? This novel explores how times of trouble can foster teamwork, leadership, and compassion in some while driving others to madness.


Maze Runner at NIU - Psychology and Memory

In The Maze Runner, Thomas and his friends are part of some kind of experiment. Their memories are wiped and they spend hours running a maze. Dr. Angela Grippo from NIU’s Department of Psychology, discusses the use of mazes in scientific experiments, explores the psychology of memory, and challenges viewers to memory trials.

Maze Runner at NIU - The Science of Running

In The Maze Runner, Minho and his team of runners might be the Gladers’ best hope of escape. Every day, they run the maze for hours making maps and hoping to find a way out. Experts from NIU’s Department of Kinseiology and Physical Education explore the science of running and talk about the calories and footwear runners would need to survive the maze.

Maze Runner at NIU - Anti Grievers

The Grievers are the most horrific part of the maze. They are killing machines with slug-like bodies that conceal saws, spikes, and needles. Dr. Kristin Brynteson from NIU’s Division of Outreach discusses the engineering design process and leads viewers in conceptualizing an anti-Griever machine. James Dashner also joins her on stage to read his description of The Maze Runner‘s mechanical monsters.

Cryptography: The Science of Secrets

Can’t get enough of Cryptography? Join NIU Math instructor and cryptography enthusiast Brian Veitch as he explains the science of secrets and how they relate to the hidden codes of The Maze Runner.

Maze Runner at NIU – Cryptography

In The Maze Runner, Thomas and his friends need to crack the code of the maze to find a way out. Mathematician and cryptography expert Brian Veitch from NIU’s Department of Mathematics discusses the maps of The Maze Runner and the history of hidden messages, and then challenges viewers to do some decrypting of their own.

Highlights from Maze Runner at NIU

STEM Read’s Maze Runner at NIU field trip brought over 200 middle and high school students from around the region to DeKalb for a day of activities based on The Maze Runner. The students learned about the science behind the fiction with experts in cryptography, psychology and memory, kinesiology, art and design, and engineering.


GAME- Testing Your Mind

Play this online game to test your memory and prepare for running the maze!  This game explores STEM concepts behind the book The Maze Runner by James Dashner.


Testing Your Memory- A Game Based on the Book The Maze Runner by James Dashner

GAME- Cryptography: Cracking the Code

Play this online game to learn more about cryptography, solve puzzles, and escape the maze!  This game explores STEM concepts behind the book The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

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Cryptography: Cracking the Code- A Game Created for The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Play Maze Runner Missions from Random House

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Random House Maze Runner Game

Cryptography – Substitution Ciphers and Cracking Tools

In The Maze Runner, Thomas and the other Gladers had to crack the code of the maze to win their freedom. The activities below will introduce you to concepts of cryptography and show you how to encode and decode secret messages. If you’re ever imprisoned in a giant maze by a shady, quasi-governmental organization, these skills just might save your life!

Solve this Cryptography Challenge!

Create your own cipher disk and solve a secret message.  Using your deciphered text, assemble the puzzle pieces on the graph paper.  Print the puzzle pieces on transparency paper for best results.  After you discover the answer to this challenge, visit the Check Your Answer page to determine if you’re right.

Design Your Own Cipher Disk

Email your original cipher disk and design to

We will showcase awesome designs on our site.

Online Tools for Cracking Code

The following websites and activities were created by Brian Veitch from Northern Illinois University’s Department of Mathematics.

This Introduction to Cryptography was created by Brian Veitch, a NIU cryptography expert, and contains guides, lessons, activities, and resources.


Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons

These questions, prompts, and short activities provide quick ways to inspire interest and explore the STEAM concepts related to the book. Idea Sparks and Mini Lessons can be used for differentiation and to foster new ideas of your own.

Download the Lesson Plan

An Introduction to Cryptography

An Introduction to Cryptography

By Brian Veitch, NIU Department of Mathematics

A comprehensive teacher’s guide that includes complete descriptions of cryptography concepts, lesson plans, activities, and resources. This can be used in conjunction with “Cryptography-Substitution Cyphers and Cracking Tools” web resources on the Maze Runner Activities page.

STEM Read Cipher Disk

Function V. Fashion

In this combined science and art activity, students will create the worst possible shoe for running and the best possible shoe for running.

Download Lesson Plan 

Fuel the Feet

In this science and health activity, students will show how food affects running performance and develop a diet to “fuel the feet” of a runner.

Download Lesson Plan

Design an Anti-Griever

One of the terrors in the book is the fact that the Grievers chase anyone entering the maze. In this engineering challenge, students will use the Engineering Design Cycle to plan, build, and test a device that would help them repel the Grievers in the maze. This lesson can be divided into two sessions with one for research and one for development of the prototype.

Download the Lesson Plan 

Video Discussion Guide

Watch the videos and then use these questions to facilitate classroom discussions about the topics presented.

Download the Video Discussion Guide

Additional Resources

Teacher Guide from Random House

Discussion Questions from Multnomah County Library 

About the Maze Runner Fandom

The Maze Runner Fandom

You can learn more about the books, films, and fandom over at The Maze Runner Wiki!