Cracking codes and escaping the classroom


Nesta is an innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time. We see a world full of potential, where new ideas solve the big challenges that matter to everyone. Our mission is to seek out, spark and shape powerful new ideas, joining with others to take on the big challenges of our time and shift how the world works for everyone.

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Nesta, in partnership with Tata group and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), are calling on both students and teachers to transform the way they think about Maths. Inspired by The Crystal Maze and growth of ‘escape rooms’, the the innovation foundation have launched the Cracking the Code challenge for 11 to 14 year olds across the country to create their own escape room.

The group with the best idea will see their escape room concept brought to life, and will receive £2,000 to support Maths programmes in their school. The deadline is 15th March 2018, so get cracking and make sure you enter before then.

The aim is to disrupt the way Maths has traditionally been taught, get kids out of the classroom, and open their eyes to the many creative ways Maths can be applied. The world is changing quickly, and there are more and more opportunities to use Maths to create, from building apps to designing drones. The education system should prepare children to make the most of these opportunities.

On top of this, as the workplace becomes increasingly automated, Nesta research has shown that it will be the more complex, human skills that employers will be looking for. This has been recognised by PISA, who last month released international rankings for collaborative problem-solving for the first time - alongside its existing rankings for Maths, Science and reading.

“If the children of today are to go on to be the innovators of the future, knowledge isn’t enough,” said Amy Solder, project lead for education at Nesta. “They also have to learn how to apply this knowledge, think outside the box and work together to solve problems. We need to show the next generation of disruptors that Maths is the gateway to innovation across a range of industries.

“We’ve been working on the Cracking the Code challenge with educators and mathematicians, developing activities that will capture the imaginations of students, whilst equipping them with the skills they will need for the future.”

David Landsman, executive director at Tata Limited, added: “The Tata group has over 65,000 people in the UK working in businesses from salt to steel, tea to IT, and premium cars to luxury hotels. Maths skills are absolutely vital to our people in every single one of our companies. But Maths is also a vital tool for everyone, regardless of what you do or how old you are. We’re looking to our partnership with Nesta to bring the same innovative spirit that we foster in our businesses into helping improve the nation’s Maths skills. I’m delighted that TCS – which offers many opportunities in the technologies of the future – is part of this initiative.”

Pupils across the UK are invited to participate in Cracking the Code challenge through their school, and the call for entries is now open. Those who sign up will be asked to both solve and create Mathematically-based puzzles, games and riddles which could be used in ‘escape room’ scenarios. These activities have been designed by experts to inspire and engage students in an interactive environment for fun-based learning.

For more information and to register teams from schools, teachers should visit

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