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Cracking the Code maths challenge for students open

The competition aims to encourage a love of maths and problem-solving outside the formal curriculum. It’s open to KS3 and KS4 students across the UK and is a 2-part competition.

The Challenge

(Please not that this competition has now closed.)

Cracking the Code is part of Maths Mission; a partnership between Tata and Nesta aiming to find innovative new ways to improve problem-solving and maths skills.

The 2-part challenge is delivered with online maths platform Mangahigh, an adaptive and personalised digital resource for primary and secondary school mathematics.

Competitions can be a valuable way of motivating students and improving their attitudes to maths. Charlie Stripp, Director of National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) talks about the importance of using competitions to motivate all students, not just the ‘brightest’ in his recent blog. Our pilot year evaluation report also showed how competitions that provide opportunities to apply maths in interesting contexts, and combine with other important skills like collaboration and creativity, can support improved attitudes to maths.

Our competition is about improving maths skills and attitudes and using maths creatively, and is open to students of all abilities.

The winning Cracking the Code team from 2018 giving a presentation

“Cracking the Code exposed students to a side of maths they don’t often get a chance to experience - when maths is engaging, creative and collaborative. I witnessed some great presentations by students from a wide variety of schools and backgrounds. Their excellent work makes me optimistic about the next generation of mathematicians in the UK.”

Rob Eastaway, Maths expert, author and broadcaster

How does it work?

Cracking the Code Challenge 1: Game Play challenges secondary schools from across the UK to participate in an online national maths competition from the 19 March 2019 until the 29 March 2019. The aim of the competition is simple - students must complete maths games and puzzles to master maths skills and win points. The top 10 schools with the most points will be awarded monetary prizes towards maths programmes at their school. The top prize is £1000.

Cracking the Code Challenge 2: Games Design challenges students aged 11 - 14 to design their own online game by applying their creativity, use of maths and collaborative problem solving skills. The winning team will be selected in June 2019 and will have their game created online.

Schools can register for the competition and their free 10 week membership to Mangahigh now through the competition page. (Please not that this competition has now closed.)

Why should schools take part?

  • Entry for the competition is free and participating schools receive a free 10 week membership to Mangahigh (10 weeks from the 5 March 2019)
  • Gain access to over 700 engaging activities on Mangahigh including innovative games and adaptive quizzes
  • Gives students of all abilities the opportunity to have fun with maths and the chance to win a range of prizes including having their game created online for other students to use. Students will get the chance to apply their maths skills creatively and work in teams to solve maths problems.
  • Finalist teams will be invited to an exciting final event in London where students will have the opportunity to present their game design ideas to a panel of judges

Download short puzzles created by students who participated in Cracking the Code last year. Use these in class and inspire your students to take part!

Students at the final event for Cracking the Code 2018

Students from Elgin Academy, the winners of Cracking the Code 2018


of teachers of finalist teams said that Cracking the Code has had a positive impact on students.


of student finalists reported the competition helped them see how maths can be applied usefully in a new context.

“Cracking the Code was an amazing experience for the students. As the students were across different year groups it really fostered their teamwork and communication skills. It supported them to be creative, innovative and really see a different side to mathematics. The prize money from Cracking the Code will be used to set up maths masterclasses at our school, reaching out to other schools in the region, to enable more students to experience maths as a practical, useful and engaging skill.”

Lynne Weir, Elgin Academy

Competition timeline:

  • 08.03.2019 - Access to Mangahigh open
    • Schools can register online for their free 10-week membership to Mangahigh and begin preparing for the competition. Resources for Cracking the Code: Games Design will be available for schools to start using.
  • 19.03.2019 - Cracking the Code: Game Play begins
    • Schools start competing online through maths puzzles and games to collect as many points as possible.
  • 29.03.2019 - Cracking the Code: Game Play ends
    • Online competition closes and schools winning the most points will be awarded prizes and medals
  • 10.05.2019 - Cracking the Code: Games Design ends
    • Deadline for schools to submit their game designs documents online. Important: schools and students can participate in this part of Cracking the Code even if they did not participate in Part 1.
  • 27.06.2019 - Competition Final Event
    • Event in London where shortlisted teams will present their ideas and the winners of the competition will be announced. The winning team will have their game created online which will be shared with students and schools around the world.
Part of
Maths Mission


Kate Bower

Kate Bower

Kate Bower

Assistant Programme Manager, Education

Kate worked on the Maths Mission programme series of projects that run in partnership between Nesta and Tata.

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