Best to let them answer that! Julian Bhardwaj took part for many years, going on the study Discrete Mathematics at University and to be a finalist in the UK Cyber Security Championship. He said of the competition:
If I were to name one thing which has undoubtedly influenced my academic drive, interests and overall career to date, it would be the National Cipher Challenge. Since being introduced to cryptography and the challenge in Year 8, it has been my one passion and driving force in pursuing further education in maths.
Naomi Andrew first tried her hand at the Challenge in year 8, and kept at it until she was too old.
It was fun seeing a different side of maths to what I was learning in class, and the elation of finally understanding a difficult cipher is a feeling that’s hard to beat. The challenge was my first taste of how much there is to maths, and more than 10 years later the subject continues to amaze and excite me!
Naomi did her Undergraduate degree in Mathematics at Southampton and has stayed on to do a PhD, while keeping her hand in by helping out with the Cipher Challenge in the little spare time that she still has!
Not all of the competitors like to work alone and teacher Claire West from Peter Symonds College saw the benefit of team work
As a teacher, I see the students form themselves into successful teams; with self-elected leaders who are responsible for organising their group after identifying their member’s individual strengths. In our college, the challenges are worked on entirely by the groups alone as they use our library to work past the usual college close time. I am so proud of them.
One of her team members said:
You can take it as far as you want. I loved it and read books about ciphers got addicted to solving the challenges. It builds up to the more complex challenges so every week you know you’ll get stretched just a little bit more. I went back multiple years to try and beat my score from the year before. It was great fun, solving the challenges as a team and actually applying the mathematical skills you learn in maths. I loved it and I’m sad I can’t do it again next year!