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The Puzzles
Due: Wed 10 Jan, 4 pm
Countdown clock:
Due: Wed 24 Jan, 4 pm
Due: Wed 7 Feb, 4 pm
Due: Wed 21 Feb, 12 pm
Due: Mon 12 Mar, 10 am

FAQ.

Registration

Who is eligible to take part in the competition?

The competition is only open to persons who are in full-time education (including home schoolers) in the United Kingdom in years up to and including Year 13 (in England and Wales), S6 (Scotland), and Year 14 (Northern Ireland). Although we feel that it is most suitable to students studying for A-levels or Scottish Highers, the puzzles will be accessible to students in earlier school years.

How do I set up a team?

Click here to go to the registration page.

One person from each team will need to set up the team initially. You can do this by clicking the link 'Option 1: register a new team'. You will be asked for a team name, a contact email address for the team, your name and nickname, and contact details for your school or college including the name of a teacher. (If you are home-schooled then you should give the contact details of a parent or carer.) You can then send out invitations to the other people that are part of your team.

If you want to join an existing team, then you should click the 'Option 2: join an existing team' link or, if you have been invited to join an existing team, click on the link in the invitation email. You can then enter your details, including your name and nickname.

Optionally, each team can have a 50x50 pixel team icon or avatar.

If you create a team by mistake or accidentally join the wrong team, then you should contact us at mathsbombe@manchester.ac.uk.

Does it cost anything to take part in the competition?

No. The competition is free to enter.

Do I have to be in a team of 4?

No. Teams can be made up of 1,2,3 or 4 people. However, doing mathematics is very much a collaborative activity, and you will probably find it easier and more fun to work together on the puzzles.

What can we choose as a team name?

Anything you like! (Although we reserve the right to ban offensive or inappropriate team names.)

Can we change our team name, usernames or email addresses?

No. As you will be competing against other teams and there will be a leaderboard so that you can compare how you're doing, you have to keep the same team name throughout the competition. Furthermore your username appears when you post on the forum and it would hence be confusing if this could be changed. To ensure we can communicate with you we require a valid email address that can't be changed.

Do team members have to give their real names?

When you register, you will be asked for your real name and your nickname. Your real name will be used on the certificates (if you are in a winning team!), but will not be used on the competition website. Only your nickname will be used on the competition website and forums.

Why do team members have to give their school year?

Knowing how the competitors are distributed across different school years provides useful information to the organisers for planning future editions of the competition.

What is the School Map?

The School Map shows where competing teams' schools and colleges are located. You can choose whether or not your team appears on this map.

I want to take part but I'm no longer at school!

You can still try to solve the puzzles and play along with the competition, but you won't be able to submit your answers to the website. You will be able to see how you have done when the solutions will be released on Monday 12th March 2018.

For MathsBombe's sister competition, the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition, people who are outside the age-range of the competition can register as 'non-competing teams'. If there is sufficient demand for this option for MathsBombe then we will consider implementing it in future years.

Who can I contact if I have problems registering?

You can contact us on mathsbombe@manchester.ac.uk.

What happens if I forget my password?

On the login page you can click on the link 'Forgotten your password?'. Follow the steps after clicking that link to reset your password.

The competition

When is each puzzle set released?

The schedule is as follows:

Puzzle setsDate released
Puzzles 1 & 2Wednesday 10th January 2018
Puzzles 3 & 4Wednesday 24th January 2018
Puzzles 5 & 6Wednesday 7th February 2018
Puzzles 7 & 8Wednesday 21st February 2018
Competition closesFriday 9th March 2018
SolutionsMonday 12th March 2018

Each puzzle set (and the solutions) is normally released at 4pm on the day of release. This is done using the clock of the server on which the site is hosted, so there may be a slight difference with your clock. We reserve the right to release the puzzle set at a later time and/or day in case of an unforeseen event or technical puzzles.

The competition closes at midnight on Friday 9th March 2018. The answers will be released on Monday 12th March 2018 or shortly afterwards.

Why are there two puzzles in each puzzle set?

Have you ever got stuck trying to solve a mathematical puzzle and needed to do something else for a bit whilst waiting for inspiration? So have we! If you get stuck on one of the puzzles, then you can switch gears and work on the other puzzle. You'll need to solve both puzzles as quickly as possible to get the maximum points available. Usually one of the puzzles will be slightly easier; it's for you to decide your solution strategy.

How long do we get to complete each puzzle?

Once released, each puzzle remains open until the competition closes at midnight on Friday 9th March 2018. You do not need to solve the puzzles in order.

How many attempts do we get for each puzzle?

For each puzzle your team has three attempts to submit the correct solution. If all three attempts are incorrect, you will not be able to submit any more entries for that puzzle and hence you won't earn any points for that puzzle. We want to prevent teams guessing solutions, yet on the other hand we also want to allow for incidental mistakes and typos.

We're completely stuck trying to solve one of the puzzles - what should we do?

Firstly, don't panic! The puzzles get harder as the competition progresses. You'll need to be mathematically smart and quick-thinking, but all the puzzles should be solvable without recourse to complicated techniques from the A-level syllabus. If you can't solve one of the puzzles then perhaps you can formulate and solve an easier case - and maybe that will give you a hint.

What happens to teams who misbehave in the competition?

Any team that cheats or tries to cheat (by getting or asking for help from someone outside of their team, or by requesting or giving hints to the puzzles on the forum or on other websites) will face a penalty. Anybody who posts inappropriate or offensive posts on the forum will also face a penalty. The penalties we can impose range from a formal warning, a deduction of points, a ban from the forum, or expulsion from the competition.

In short: we know you're all competitive and want to win, but please don't spoil the competition by cheating.

Who was Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw?

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw (1912-2014) was a mathematician, astronomer and politician. She had a remarkable life: she made fundamental discoveries about the mathematics of magic squares, served as Lord Mayor of Manchester, and was influential in education both in Manchester and nationally. You can read more about her life here.

Why is the competition called 'MathsBombe'?

Why not?

The forum

Can we post solutions to the puzzles in the forum?

Absolutely not. In order to not spoil the competition for other teams, any post on the forum that contains the solutions (or links to where solutions can be found) will be deleted and you or your team may be penalised.

What can we discuss in the forum?

Use the forum to discuss (or boast about!) your progress with other teams. The competition organisers may also use the forum to drop the occasional hint...

Are the forums moderated?

The competition organisers will keep an eye on the forum and will delete any inappropriate or offensive material. Any team who makes offensive posts risks being banned from the competition.

Who can we contact if we have a problem with the forum?

Contact us on mathsbombe@manchester.ac.uk.

The leaderboard and the prizes

How does the scoring system and leaderboard work?

As well as their rank, teams will be awarded a number of points for each puzzle they solve correctly. The first team to solve each puzzle will be awarded fifteen points and then the clock starts ticking for the other teams. The other teams will be awarded points based on how much longer it takes them to solve the puzzle compared to the first team to solve it, according to the following table:

Points awarded:If the correct solution is received by our server:
15within one hour of the first team to submit the correct solution
14within two hours of the first team to submit the correct solution
12within four hours of the first team to submit the correct solution
11within one day of the first team to submit the correct solution
10within two days of the first team to submit the correct solution
9within three days of the first team to submit the correct solution
8within four days of the first team to submit the correct solution
7within five days of the first team to submit the correct solution
6within six days of the first team to submit the correct solution
5within one week of the first team to submit the correct solution
3within ten days of the first team to submit the correct solution
2within two weeks of the first team to submit the correct solution
1later than two weeks after the first team to submit the correct solution,
but before the end of the competition

Teams who have solved the most number of puzzles will appear at the top of the leaderboard. If teams have solved the same number of puzzles, the number of points awarded for each puzzle will be summed to give a total points score and the team with the highest score wins. If teams tie on the number of points, these teams will be ranked according to the total time taken to solve all the puzzles (the team with the shortest overall time being ranked highest).

What are the prizes?

There are prizes for:
  • being the first team to solve each puzzle
  • coming first, second or third in the leaderboard at the end of the competition
  • spot prizes for teams who have solved each puzzle.

What do I win if my team is first to solve both puzzles in a puzzle set?

If your team is the first to correctly solve both puzzles in a puzzle set then each team member wins £15 in Amazon gift vouchers. The winners will be formally announced on the competition website and forum shortly the next puzzle set of the competition is released, and will also be informed by email.

What do I win if my team is one of the top three at the end of the competition?

The following prizes will be awarded to the teams that are at the top of the leaderboard when the competition closes:
  • first place: each team member wins £30 in Amazon gift vouchers
  • second place: each team member wins £25 in Amazon gift vouchers
  • third place: each team member wins £20 in Amazon gift vouchers.

In addition, each team member will receive a certificate and the school will receive a trophy.

How do the spot prizes work?

Each puzzle will have at most 3 spot prizes. To win a spot prize, your team must have correctly solved a puzzle within two weeks of the puzzle being released. Three teams who have solved the puzzle within that time will be chosen at random by our server and awarded a spot prize of £10 in Amazon gift vouchers for each team member. The winners of the spot prizes will be announced on the website and forum, and will also be informed by email. In order to spread the prizes around as much as possible, if your team is the first team to solve a puzzle, then you won't be eligible to win a spot prize for that puzzle set.

When will I receive my prize?

For the puzzle set prizes and spot prizes, the vouchers will normally be sent out by post on the Thursday after the following puzzle set has been released. (So if you win one of the puzzle set prizes you might have to wait 2 weeks to receive your prize.) The vouchers will be sent to your school or college, addressed to the teacher you named as a contact when you registered.

The teams who come first, second and third on the leaderboard at the end of the competition will be invited to attend the 'Alan Turing Cryptography Day' on Wednesday 25th April 2018 (see here), the live finale of MathsBombe's sister competition. If you or your team can't make it, then we will send the prizes (together with certificates and trophies) shortly afterwards to your school or college and addressed to the teacher you named as a contact when you registered.

What else can I win?

Every team member of every team who successfully completes all 8 puzzles by the end of the competition will receive a certificate. These certificates will be sent out in early April to your school or college.

MathsBombe 2017 is organised by the The School of Mathematics at the University of Manchester.
Contact us via mathsbombe@manchester.ac.uk with any queries.