Heriot-Watt University has won a Pounds 30,000 Bank of Scotland award for an innovative computer-based project to help pupils improve their maths.
The project, which has been running in three local schools over the past 15 months, uses a modification of the Computer Aided Learning in Mathematics (CALM) program which Heriot-Watt developed to teach its undergraduates. The interactive program allows students to learn at their own pace, and to take assessment tests to check how well they have understood.
Earlier this month, a group of professional engineering bodies deplored the lack of mathematical skills of new students compared to those a decade ago.
Cliff Beevers, director of CALM, said a key problem was the overcrowded school curriculum, which squeezed core subjects.
"What's missing from students' backgrounds at the moment is practice, and the computer provides that practice in a fun way. It seems to motivate them - they respond to work on the computer."
The 1995 Bank of Scotland tercentary award for innovation in teaching and learning will allow the Heriot-Watt team to develop a test program directly related to the Scottish higher mathematics syllabus, and extend the project to other secondary schools.
Professor Beevers said the course was roughly equivalent to the first year of the maths A level, and could also be useful south of the border.
"Competence in maths is a prerequisite for an engineering or science degree," he said.
"We hope this program could go into school libraries and self starters could use it for themselves. The other long-term aim is to have material available which could be bought for the home."
Sir Bruce Pattullo, governor of the Bank of Scotland, said: "As more and more of our young people participate in tertiary education, and are joined by increasing numbers of mature students responding to opportunities to participate in lifetime learning, the demands on the sector obviously intensify."