The International Commission on Mathematical Instruction was first established at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Rome in 1908 on the suggestion of the American mathematician and historian of mathematics David Eugene Smith. The first President of ICMI was Felix Klein and the first Secretary General was Henri Fehr. From the very beginning L'Enseignement mathématique, founded by Henri Fehr in 1899, was - as it still is - the official organ of ICMI.
When the International Mathematical Union, IMU, was created after the Second World War ICMI was reconstituted (in 1952) as a Commission of IMU. This defines the formal position of ICMI also today. Furthermore, almost all the funding of ICMI comes from IMU.
As a scientific union IMU is a member organisation of the International Council of Scientific Unions, ICSU. This implies that ICMI, through IMU, is to abide to the ICSU statutes one of which establishes the principle of non-discrimination. This principle affirms the right and freedom of scientists to associate in international scientific activity regardsless of citizenship, religion, political stance, ethnic origin, sex, and suchlike.
The Commission is defined by two constituent components. One component is the Executive Committee (EC) appointed by the General Assembly of the IMU. The other component consists of the National Representatives of the so-called member states. The set of the National Representatives forms the General Assembly of ICMI which assembles every four years in conjunction with the quadriennial International Congresses on Mathematical Education (the ICMEs), see below.
It appears that the members of ICMI are neither individuals nor organisations, agencies etc. The member states of IMU are automatically members of ICMI as well. However, ICMI may, with the approval of the Executive Committee of IMU, coopt as member states non-IMU countries on an individual basis. In considering a non- IMU country's application for membership of ICMI, the EC places emphasis on evidence of coordinated involvement of the major relevant interested parties in mathematics education within the country at issue, such as organisations of university and research mathematicians, of researchers in mathematics education, of mathematics teachers, and soforth, according to the specific circumstances. For the time being (autumn 1995) ICMI has 67 member states. Each member state, whether an IMU country or not, is entitled to appoint a National Representative.
In quite a few countries national Sub-Commissions of ICMI have been established with the dual purpose of providing an organised forum for dealing with issues of mathematics education at a national level and of offering an interface between that level and the international mathematics education community as represented by ICMI. In cases when a national Sub-Commission exists the National Representative to ICMI is one of its members, often the chairperson of the Sub-Commission.
During the past quarter of a century, four permanent so-called Study Groups, each devoting its attention to a specific theme or topic area, have become affiliated to ICMI. The affiliated Study Groups are the following:
ICME: The International Congress on Mathematical Education
A major event in the life of the international mathematics education community is formed by the quadriennial International Congress on Mathematical Education, ICME, held under the auspices of ICMI. Up till now (1995) seven congresses have been held in different parts of the world (Europe, North America, Australia). The most recent one was ICME-7 (1992) in Quebec City, Canada. ICME-8 will be held in Sevilla, Spain (14-21 July 1996). Furthermore the decision has just been made to hold ICME-9 in the year 2000 in Japan.
The site of an ICME is decided upon by the ICMI EC. Moreover, for each ICME the scientific programme is planned by an International Programme Committee appointed by, and with representatives of, the ICMI EC. In addition to the rather formal Congress Proceedings, a wide variety of ICME-related publications on specific themes and topics normally appear as well.
In recent years, ICMI has found it important to involve itself directly in identifying issues or topics of particular contemporary significance to mathematics education and to invest an effort in mounting specific studies on these themes. The main emphasis of a given study may be on analytic or action oriented aspects but an analytic component will always be present.
An ICMI Study is composed of a series of steps: An International Programme Committee is appointed by the ICMI EC. The IPC produces a Discussion Document which is circulated as widely as possible in international journals, magazines, newsletters etc. Readers are invited to react in writing to the IPC which then organises an international ICMI Study Conference with a limited attendance of 60- 90 invited participants. Finally the IPC, or a subset of it, produces the ICMI Study volume.
Up to now the following ICMI Studies have been completed:
Except for the last three studies, which are published by Kluwer Academic Publishers, the other studies are published by Cambridge University Press (the second edition of the 'Computers and Informatics' study was published by UNESCO, though). Forthcoming study publications are:
Despite the global nature of its position and role, from time to time ICMI has lent its name to a variety of regional conferences on mathematics education, primarily in less affluent parts of the world. So, a number of so-called ICMI Regional Meetings have been held over the years. Some of these have been subsidised financially with a modest grant from ICMI as has also been the case with a few other (series of) meetings which have been granted the status of ICMI Regional Meetings without actually having been held under that name. So far ICMI has sponsored regional conferences in East Asia, Australia, Latin America and Africa.
In 1992 ICMI decided to mount a Solidarity Programme in Mathematics Education. The overall objective is to foster, in a variety of ways, the commitment and involvement of mathematics educators around the world in order to improve the situation of mathematics education in particular in those parts of the world where the economic and socio-political situations do not permit adequate and autonomous development.
As a first step in the mounting of the Solidarity Programme, ICMI decided to establish a Solidarity Fund based on donations by individuals, organisations etc. One major objective of this initiative is to provide means which, together with institutional or other help obtained from other sources, may enable mathematics educators to devote some of their time and personal effort to the improvement of mathematics education where there is a critical need. As one example of projects undertaken with the assistance of the Solidarity Fund, it could be mentioned that a team of around 30 teachers from different universities, mostly in Spain but also in the USA and Canada, are offering part of their vacation time to help graduate students at the Universidad Nacional de El Salvador to obtain Masters' degree in Mathematics Education or in Statistics.
Being based on voluntary donations, the Solidarity Fund is kept separate from ICMI's funds.
Although ICMI is not involved in organising or running the International Mathematical Olympiads (IMOs), in recent years the ICMI EC has agreed to appoint, on the recommendation of the IMO Jury, the Chair, the Secretary and three other members of what is now called the IMO Advisory Board, IMOAB.
THE ICMI EC 1995-1998
Until the end of 1998, the Executive Committee of ICMI is composed as follows:
The addresses of the ICMI EC members can be found in the ICMI Bulletin No. 39.