Win prizes with the National Cipher Challenge 2022

Do you and your pupils love a challenge? To celebrate the launch of the National Cipher Challenge 2022, Mathematics Teaching Training Scholarships is hosting a teacher taster competition which invites all teachers to crack a code in the style of the National Cipher Challenge which is for pupils.

Teachers – Crack the code to win a £100 Amazon Voucher

The winner of this teacher taster competition will win a £100 Amazon voucher, kindly donated by the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, as well as a maths/maths education goodies. Two runners up will also win maths/maths education goodies.
The aim of this teacher taster competition is to get maths teachers excited about the National Cipher Challenge which is run each year by the University of Southampton.  Have a go at the code – see if you can crack it, have some fun, and above all, make sure you check out the National Cipher Challenge and start entering your pupils! 

What is the National Cipher Challenge? 

The National Cipher Challenge is a free to enter, national competition which has been run by the University of Southampton for over 20 years. The competition normally begins in early October, with registration opening mid-September, and is aimed at Year 7-13 pupils. Every week a new encrypted text is released, all themed around a story which is often linked to real historical events.  The competition feels like an immersive adventure, with all the materials designed to feel authentic. The first-rate design of the competition is impressive, and will appeal to pupils who are used to playing computer games with high quality graphics.   

How many rounds are there?

The first three rounds are ‘practice rounds’, and there is a certificate for every pupil who completes any one of these rounds. There are usually around 10 rounds in total, which increase in difficulty. If pupils can crack round four there is a Bronze certificate available and after that, subsequent rounds will attract Silver or Gold certificates. 

What are the prizes?

For those who win the whole competition there are prizes of up to £1000.  Pupils can enter as individuals or in teams – if they enter as a team then the prize money will be split amongst the team. With several thousand entrants each year, most won’t win the main prizes – but that is not the point. Pupils and teachers alike become passionate about solving the ciphers, and taking part in this competition is extra-curricular maths at its most engaging. 
There are also certificates available for every completed round and a leader board. (Teachers do need to be aware that pupils need to download the certificates themselves from their pupil accounts.)  

How could the National Cipher Challenge work as part of a maths club?

The National Cipher Challenge is perfect for maths clubs, but could also be run as part of normal maths lessons. Team composition is flexible so you could easily have pupils in Year 9 working with pupils in Year 10. It is also possible to enter more than one team, or individual pupils. There is a wealth of training resources including six downloadable lesson plans which cover some of the most popular ciphers.  
If you are running the National Cipher Challenge for the first time in your school, then it is hard to predict how far your pupils will get. You can however be confident that pupils will be able to tackle the first three practice rounds as well as having a go at round 4.  So why not plan four weeks of your maths club around the challenge - if you get beyond that it will be brilliant, but you know for definite what you are doing for the first four weeks.   (You could also aim to improve your record each year.)

What if my pupils get stuck?

In the first three practice rounds you can get hints and there is also a forum which teachers can use throughout the competition. The six downloadable lesson plans cover all the skills needed to tackle the first three challenges. There is also a substantial collection of other training resources which are available on the website.  Your pupils will be well supported in the National Cipher Challenge. 

Do my pupils need computer programming skills to crack the codes?

All the ciphers can be cracked without the use of a computer, however in some of the much later rounds pupils will be faster if they use some basic programming skills. This could be a good opportunity for collaboration with your computing teachers. 

What if I need to miss a week?

If you miss a week, you can simply pick up the next challenge with your pupils. You won’t be able to get the points from the week you missed, however it won’t damage your enjoyment of the competition. 

Why is the National Cipher Challenge great for my pupils?

Your students will be using skills they already have and applying them in a totally different way. This competition is fun, challenging and will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable things you do as a teacher this year. It builds the soft skills of teamwork, perseverance and creativity. Your sixth formers can talk about it when applying to university. For some pupils it may inspire them to study maths at A-level, degree level or to pursue a career in cyber security. The benefits are endless – but deep down, everyone loves a good puzzle and so hopefully you won’t be able to resist entering your pupils for the competition! 
Now over to you as a teacher to have a go at the taster competition…

The teacher taster competition – can you crack the code?

Rules for the taster competition

  1. You need to be a UK based teacher, or trainee teacher. Maths Scholars and Alumni are allowed to enter.
  2. Prizes will only be sent to a UK address. 
  3. Crack the code below to decipher a link to the National Cipher Competition website where you will find a more advanced challenge! You can register there and submit your solution online. 
  4. The Competition opens at 10:00 on Friday 1 July 2022. All entries must be received by 23:59 on Sunday 31 July 2022.
  5.  One winner and two runners up will be drawn at random from correct answers which have been submitted before the deadline. The solution will be published on the competition website on August 1st.
  6. Employees of the IMA and any partner organisations of the Mathematics Teacher Training Scholarships are not eligible to enter.
    Those who are, or have been, associated with the Mathematics Teacher Training Scholarships are also not eligible to enter. (Current Mathematics Teaching Scholars and Alumni are however allowed to enter.)
    Employees of the University of Southampton are also not eligible to enter, although trainee teachers from the University of Southampton are welcome to enter.
  7. The teacher taster competition is in collaboration with the National Cipher Challenge (University of Southampton).  Your contact information is required when you enter the competition because we need to be able to contact you if you win. By entering the competition, you consent to us holding your personal information for this purpose.
    This information is only held as a temporary record by the National Cipher Challenge until we contact the winners and the prizes have been awarded. All information will then be deleted unless you choose the option for us to retain those details for the National Cipher Challenge’s Autumn competition.
  8. If you accept the option for the National Cipher Challenge to retain your data for their autumn competition, it will be kept for this purpose only. Please see the data and privacy policies in the rules section of the National Cipher Challenge’s website.
  9. The Mathematics Teacher Training Scholarships will be contacting the winner and runners-up, so their names, schools and email addresses will be shared between the two organisations for the purposes of contacting the winners. All information will be deleted once the prizes have been awarded.
  10. The name and school of the winner and runners-up will be announced by the Mathematics Teacher Training Scholarships and National Cipher Challenge teams on social media and on the National Cipher Challenge website.
  11. Competition winners will be notified by the end of August 2022.

When you submit your solution, you will be asked if you want to ‘pre-register’ for the National Cipher Competition which launches in the Autumn.  This means you will be kept up to date with the launch, and won’t forget to enter your pupils when the time comes. (You will still need to complete an official free registration for the National Cipher Competition 2022 in the Autumn.) 

If you want to pre-register for the National Cipher Competition, but don’t have time to crack the teacher code then you can also ....

Crack the Code to find the link to our teacher competition


Now follow the link above to the National Cipher Competition website to submit your solutions by midnight on July 31st 2022.

The National Cipher Competition is run by the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Southampton and supported by: 
Trinity College Cambridge
Bluespark Foundation

Any queries about the competition should be directed to Prof Graham Niblo at: 
National Cipher Challenge -