Cracking the Code

Cracking the Code challenges young people to design their own escape room by applying their creativity, use of maths and collaborative problem solving skills. The winning team will be selected in May 2018 and will have their ideas brought to life and win £2,000 for their school.

The competition is no longer accepting entries for 2018, but teachers can register their interest at the bottom of this page to keep up to date with news, upcoming events and competitions.

14th November 2017
Prize opens
1st February 2018
Entry Deadline
22nd March 2018
Award event
May 2018 (tbc)

The challenge

Inspired by 'The Crystal Maze' and growth of ‘escape rooms’ we are launching a nationwide youth challenge prize to design your own escape room. The challenge is designed to engage students predominately in Year 7 but open to all Key Stage 3 to apply their creativity, use of maths and collaborative problem solving skills. Teams escape room concepts must contain at least four mathematical puzzle questions to reach a 4 digit code to unlock a padlock.

We’re looking for ideas that demonstrate students :


How unique and exciting is the escape room concept. Innovativeness of the idea; how well do puzzles fit with the theme

Use of maths

How well do the puzzles use mathematical concepts and problem-solving. Use of different mathematical concepts; strong link to maths; complex logic


How well did the team communicate their escape room idea? Written communication of report at the first stage and verbal communication of pitch at the finalist stage. Creative and clear communication of how the maths works

Participant journey


19th December 2017

Teachers register for the February 2017 event. Schools do not have to attend the event in order to enter the competition - please see 'Submit Entries' below

Prize opens & inspiration event

1st February 2018

Inspiration launch event on 1st February held at the Science Museum, London where students learn about the competition, be inspired by maths experts, have a go at code breaking puzzles in their teams and to begin working on their escape room concepts.

Schools that did not attend the February 2018 event are still able to enter the competition.

Submit entries

22nd March 2018
Entries are now open. Young people should work in teams to finalise their escape room concept and design at least four mathematical puzzle questions to reach a 4 digit code to unlock a padlock. The entry workbook, with guidelines and suggestions, can be found here. Submit entries by 22nd March 2018


16th April 2018
10 teams will be selected as finalists by 16 April. They will be treated to an escape room experience to get inspiration to fine tune their ideas. Teams will have a few weeks to work on their pitch and creative ways of demonstrating their puzzles and communicating the maths behind them to judges.

Awards ceremony

June 2018
10 teams pitch their ideas and winner selected. June 2018

Why should I take part?

‘Cracking the Code’ aims to promote maths as a practical, engaging and problem-solving tool. Its objectives are to:

Raise interest

Raise interest in maths amongst students particularly in those students who are traditionally less engaged

Expand students ideas

Expand students’ ideas of what maths is about, to include logic, problem solving and puzzles

Encourage development

Encourage the development of pupils’ soft skills, such as creativity, teamwork and presentation skills within the context of maths


  • Teams must be formed 4-6 students (mixed ability)
  • Team members must be aged 11 - 14 (but main target is Yr7)
  • Schools must be based in United Kingdom
  • Cap of 30 students per school (5 teams of 6)
  • Ideas must be submitted by a teacher on behalf of team (this is to ensure there is adult support for the entry, although the work must be that of the young people)

Who's behind the prize

Cracking the Code is part of the Maths Mission pilot series, which aims to improve attitudes and attainment in maths. Maths Mission was founded and is run by Nesta and Tata, and Cracking the Code has been developed with the support of IT services provider, Tata Consultancy Services.

Inspired by 'The Crystal Maze' and growth of ‘escape rooms’ the competition has been designed to engage students predominately in Yr 7 but open to all KS3. The competition is nationwide and accessible to all abilities.

The objective of the competition is to inspire and engage students in maths-related activities.


Founding partner
Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills. We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities. We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment. To find out more visit


Founding partner
Having established Tata Limited in 1907 to represent the group in Europe, Tata now has 19 companies operating across the continent, with a combined workforce of over 65,000. These companies include: Jaguar Land Rover; Tata Steel Europe; Tata Motors; Tata Consultancy Services (TCS); Tata Global Beverages (including Tetley Tea); Tata Chemicals and Taj Hotels. European markets with a key Tata presence include; the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Tata Consultancy Services

Supporting partner
Tata Consultancy Services is an IT services, consulting and business solutions organization that delivers real results to global business, ensuring a level of certainty no other firm can match. TCS offers a consulting-led, integrated portfolio of IT, BPS, infrastructure, engineering and assurance services. This is delivered through its unique Global Network Delivery Model™, recognized as the benchmark of excellence in software development.

A part of the Tata group, India’s largest industrial conglomerate, TCS has over 385,000 of the world’s best-trained consultants in 46 countries. The company generated consolidated revenues of US $17.58 billion for year ended March 31, 2017 and is listed on the BSE Limited and National Stock Exchange of India Limited. For more information, visit us at


To enter a team of students for the competition, please find a workbook which they can use to design their escape room ideas, complete with mathematical puzzle questions, here

Teachers can register their details here to receive further information about the competition.

Please contact with any questions about Cracking the Code.

  • You and your school

Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.
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