PUPILS of Castell Alun got cracking on Tuesday when they were given an insight into the world of ciphers and encryption.

In true secret agent style, the maths whizzes from Years 10 and 11 turned code-crackers to discover how cryptography has been used throughout history, even as far back as Ancient Greece.

Under the tutelage of Claire Ellis from the Cambridge University Millennium Mathematics Project (MMP), the students learned why cryptography is as relevant now as it ever was. They were shown how encrypted data is used on everything from 'secure' websites to the chips on credit cards.

The highlight of the day was a demonstration of an Enigma machine, which British scientists were unable to break for many months at a crucial stage of the Second World War.

Students then put their problem-solving skills to the test with attempts at cracking cryptic messages enciphered using a range of methods from ancient Caesar shifts to modern ISBN numbers.

Co-ordinating maths teacher Ian Gee said: 'We are keen that our pupils share in the excitement of mathematics and understand the enormous range and importance of its applications and its vital contribution to shaping the world.'

The MMP is a maths education initiative for young people aged five to 19. It is aimed at developing mathematical skills and understanding in an enjoyable way through extra-curriculum enrichment.