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Cracking the code of low maths attainment

Pupils at Moray school design an escape room to encourage fellow pupils' love of maths

Posted by Alex Diggins | November 23, 2018 | School life

Pupils at Elgin Academy, Moray, Scotland, invited fellow students to visit the escape room they designed, which has now been built at their school, and challenged participants to solve maths puzzles in order to get out.

Taking part in the Cracking the Code competition, run by Nesta, the innovation foundation, in partnership with Tata group and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the students were asked to design their own Crystal Maze style escape room, coming up with a storyline and a series of maths puzzles that must be solved to get out. The team were selected as winners at an event held at The Crystal in London in June where nine teams of finalists presented their escape room designs to a panel of judges. 

The group of 11-14 year olds, going by the name of HMS Supernova, set its escape room scenario in a space prison of the future, where prisoners are held and then ejected out into space. Having been framed for a crime, the escape room player must solve the puzzles in time in order to avoid being lost in space forever. Their design has now been turned into reality with the help of the Problem Solving Company. 

Cracking the maths code provides the opportunity to “escape” into many different great careers

Joysy John, Director of Education at Nesta, said: “With Cracking the Code we wanted to show students just what you can achieve if you mix maths with creativity and teamwork."

The Cracking the Code competition is a part of the Maths Mission, a series of pilots seeking to find the most effective ways to increase young people’s interest in maths, and improve their collaborative problem-solving skills. In its first year, 118 schools registered for the competition from across the UK, with 400 students participating, consisting of 41% boys and 59% girls.

The UK lags behind other countries in its maths attainment. UK teenagers came 27th in the OECD’s most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) international rankings for Maths.

David Landsman, Executive Director, Tata Limited, noted: “I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to visit Elgin Academy and congratulate the team in person for their achievement in designing the winning escape room. For us at Tata, there’s a serious point too: cracking the maths code provides the opportunity to “escape” into many different great careers. I hope the Elgin Academy team will be a great example of what young people can do with maths, and what maths can do for you.”

The next round of Cracking the Code will be launching early next year. For more information please contact

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