UCL Maths Challenge

1st stage

Although UCL Maths Challenge is primarily a competition, we also organized a noncompetitive event this year. We didn't manage to give it a proper name but we always referred to it as "1st stage" as it came first in the series of events we have been organizing this year.

1st stage of UCL Maths Challenge 2008/2009 took place on 20th January 2009 at UCL. It consisted of three activities: Lecture, Guided Tour of UCL and Workshop. For those who like to dig into details: the Lecture took place in Watson LT in Medawar Building from 10 to 11am and Workshop took place in Foster Court 101 from 12 to 2pm. The Guided Tour was scheduled to happen in-between and indeed it did.

Two schools took part in the 1st stage: Rotherfield Primary School and St. Alban's Church of England Primary School. 24 pupils attended the event (12 from each school).


The Lecture topic was Cryptography: Better Don't Get Confused! and the Lecture was given by Dr Gavin Esler from UCL Department of Mathematics.

Lecture resources:
Lecture slides
Background material

There was a quiz between the Lecture and the Workshop to ensure that pupils remember and understand the Lecture material.


The Workshop was to give pupils a chance to try the things encountered in the Lecture themselves. Pupils were divided into groups of 4 and a volunteer was assigned to each group. Pupils were MI6 agents looking for a lost member of their team. They had to crack several ciphers which they were introduced to during the Lecture in order to find where their friend resides (hunted by enemy agents). (Everything is annotated but if there is anything you find confusing, drop us an email.)

Workshop resources:
Workshop - material pupils had access to
Answers - answers to Workshop problems
Plot - storyline of the Workshop

Thank you

We would like to thank both participating schools for attending. We hope you enjoyed the event and will take part in the 2nd and 3rd stage as well. Our thanks also belongs to students who volunteered with us either as Workshop leaders - Emma, Hayden, Matthew, and Shozab - or as guides - Hayden, Hoang and Tom. We are grateful for Dr Esler's comments on Lecture and Workshop content as well as giving the Lecture. VSU and particularly John Braime, our project's supervisor, deserve a big thank you for their input, prompt responses to our queries and patience with us popping into their office at random times, amongst many other things ;)