Minutes of the General Assembly of ICMI
July 1996

The General Assembly was held at the Universidad de Sevilla on Wednesday the 17th July 1996, 17.00-19.00 in conjunction with the 8th International Congress on Mathematical Education.

The Assembly was opened by the President, Miguel de Guzman, who welcomed all the members present. He reminded the Assembly that the agenda and the materials for the meeting were published in the ICMI Bulletin, No. 40, June 1996.

The Secretary, Mogens Niss, gave a brief outline of the nature of the meeting. ICMI consists of two bodies, the Executive Commmittee, appointed by the International Mathematical Union, and the National Representatives of the member states of ICMI. The two bodies together form the General Assembly. Traditionally, ICMI has invited also representatives of the Affiliated Study Groups to attend the General Assembly. Besides, National Representatives are asked to appoint substitutes in case they are prevented from being present at the General Assembly themselves. Furthermore, it is also the tradition to welcome representatives of non-ICMI countries to attend the Assembly as observers. However, in case the Assembly is to vote in relation to any item on the agenda, only the formal members of the General Assembly are entitled to give their vote. Finally, although the Assembly is formally a closed meeting, it is the tradition to accept the presence of interested observers.


Miguel de Guzman referred to the accounts as published in the ICMI Bulletin No. 40 and as endorsed by the IMU Executive Committee. No questions were asked and no comments were made by members of the Assembly with respect to the finances.

2. Debate on ICMI activities 1992-96

ICMI internal affairs Mogens Niss informed the General Assembly that several countries have either applied or are in a process of applying for co-option as non-IMU members of ICMI. This possibility is available to countries which for some reason or other are unable to become members of ICMI automatically, by simply joining IMU. Co-option is applied for, and considered, on an individual basis. For a country to be eligible for co-option, the application has to come univocally from relevant bodies of mathematics education or mathematics (i.e. teacher associations, societies of didacticians of mathematics, mathematical societies etc.) If the EC decides to accept the co-option of a country and the EC of IMU approves of the decision, the co-opted member state is entitled to appoint a National Representative who is then also a member of the General Assembly. Mogens Niss further informed the Assembly that the Executive Committee had recently decided to co-opt Thailand as a non-IMU member of ICMI and had asked the IMU Executive Committee to endorse this decision.

Miguel de Guzman emphasised the very constructive and fruitful role which a National Sub-Commission may play if established in a member country. Not only does a National Sub-Commission usually imply a strengthening of the links between the country at issue and ICMI, its main significance is to discuss ICMI affairs at a national level, organise and coordinate ICMI-related activities in the country and to serve as a platform for the work of the National Representative. Therefore Miguel de Guzman encouraged National Representatives to explore the possibility of establishing National Sub-Commissions in countries where such a body does not already exist. Inspiration concerning the formation and bylaws of recently established National Sub-Commissions may be obtained from the Secretary.

The Representative of the UK, Margaret Brown, expressed the wish that more information were available to National Representatives concerning the appointment of the EC, the appointment of the International Programme Committees of the ICMEs, and so forth. Such information could serve as a useful basis for replying to queries and requests from national bodies, individuals etc. The President and the Secretary agreed that although such information had actually been published in the Bulletin, from time to time, it would be desirable to have it available for a more systematic introduction to the structure and activities of ICMI for new National Representatives and other relevant parties.

The Representative of Egypt, William Ebeid, asked for information about the bylaws and the role of the General Assembly. He felt that the Assembly occupied a fairly marginal role of little significance, limited mainly to attending a two hour meeting every four years. He would like to see bylaws for the General Assembly that could define its competence and tasks as an independent body vis-a-vis the Executive Committee and IMU. Miguel de Guzman, and other EC members, explained that the terms of reference contain no specific mention of bylaws and modes of operation for the General Assembly. He found that it might well be worthwhile to consider the possibility of formulating terms of reference for the Assembly. He and other members of the EC, including Vice-President Anna Sierpinska, went on to emphasise that the General Assembly served a number of very important functions: (a) The expression - directly in front of the EC - of concerns, ideas and proposals of National Representatives, as well as feedback to the EC regarding the work done by ICMI during the past Congress term; (b) A forum for debate and exchange of information, views, experiences and ideas between the National Representatives themselves. For this to be possible and to make sense, it seems important that National Representatives consult and discuss with mathematics education bodies and parties in their own countries to enquire whether particular points should be raised at the General Assembly within or outside of the agenda of the Assembly. Finally, Jeremy Kilpatrick, Vice-President, pointed out that the structure of ICMI was mainly determined by the fact that ICMI is a Commission established by the International Mathematical Union and not an individual membership organisation.

An attendee in the Assembly proposed that it be considered to establish an interactive Internet forum for discussion within ICMI-related bodies. Miguel de Guzman found the idea interesting and agreed to ask the EC to explore it further.

Information and communication, incl. the Bulletin Mogens Niss referred to the announcements in recent issues of the Bulletin that information about ICMI is now available from the World Wide Web (http://elib.zib.de/IMU/ICMI/) as is also the Bulletin (http://elib.zib.de/IMU/ICMI/bulletin/[no.]). Besides, as before, the Bulletin can be obtained in ASCII format through e-mail from the Editor/Secretary. When it comes to the paper version of the Bulletin, copies continue to be sent to a limited number of individu- als and agencies only. However, National Representatives are still kindly asked to help disseminate the content of the Bulletin in their countries. National Represen- tatives were also asked to provide feedback to the Editor/Secretary as to the form and content of the Bulletin. At the meeting no comments were made to this effect.

ICMEs 7 & 8

The President officially expressed ICMI's sincere thanks to the organisers of ICME-7 (Quebec, 1992), both for the Congress and for the fact that the final surplus had been donated to the ICMI Solidarity Fund.

As to the ongoing congress, ICME-8, it was, of course, still to early to make a full assessment of its structure, content and outcomes. Members of the Assembly were invited to give preliminary comments at the meeting and to send whichever comments, ideas, and suggestions they might have to the Secretary. Moreover, in countries with a National Sub-Commission, it was often decided to make a national evaluation of the ICMEs. The EC would welcome if Sub-Commissions undertook such an evaluation with respect to ICME-8. Evaluation reports may be sent to the Secretary. The National Representative of Egypt, William Ebeid, found that the congresses have become too large. He wanted 'more genuine interaction and less carnival' and asked for a restructuring of future ICMEs. Another participant in the Assembly thought that over the years the ICMEs have come to focus more and more on school mathematics and to contain fewer and fewer programme items dealing with mathematics education at university level. He found this to be an unfortunate line of development.

As regards the Solidarity Tax of 10% imposed on the registration fees, Mogens Niss informed the General Assembly that this tax, together with other funds, had made it possible to support - partially - the attendance of about 250 delegates from about 55 different countries. Many of these delegates would not have been able to attend ICME-8 without this support. The grants were measured out and distributed to applicants by a special Grants Committee appointed jointly by the Congress organisers and ICMI. This Committee will produce a report on the proceedings and results of its activities.

ICMI Studies, Affiliated Study Groups, and Regional Meetings Miguel de Guzman referred to the ICMI Bulletin No. 40, June 1996, for information concerning the Studies, the Affiliated Study Groups and the Regional Meetings since the last General Assembly and asked for comments. Unfortunately, the report from IOWME (The International Organisation of Women and Mathematics Education) could not be included in No. 40 of the Bulletin. Instead, the report will be published in No. 41, December 1996. No comments regarding activities since 1992 were made at the Assembly.

3. Future plans and developments

ICMEs 9 & 10 In view of the fact that experiences have now been gained from various realisations of the current congress format, time seems to be ripe to review this format. National Representatives and Sub-Commissions were encouraged to share their concerns and ideas with the Executive Committee. The Secretary hoped to receive deliberations to this effect.

The President announced the decision of the EC to accept, with great pleasure and gratitude, Japan's invitation to host ICME-9 in the year 2000. The Chair of the Japanese Invitation Committee, Hiroshi Fujita, former National Representative of Japan to ICMI, took the floor to thank ICMI for the honour it is to be entrusted with the task of hosting ICME-9. He concluded by extending a warm welcome to the Congress. His colleague Toshio Sawada then informed the General Assembly that the dates proposed for the Congress are 31.7-7.8.2000 and that the venue will be Chiba Convention Centre, Makuhari, at the Tokyo Bay, not far from Narita International Airport. The General Assembly applauded the decision as well as the welcoming words from the Japanese delegates.

As to ICME-10, the EC invited National Representatives to contemplate whether their country should consider submitting a bid to host the congress in the year 2004. As the process of preparing such a bid is normally quite lengthy it will probably be worthwhile to initiate considerations already at this stage. The envoye from Brazil, R. Lins, standing in for the National Representative, informed the Assembly that a number of Brazilian associations involved in mathematics education have decided to join forces in preparing Brazil to submit a bid to host ICME-10.

Future studies Mogens Niss informed the General Assembly that the EC, at its meeting in Sevilla, has decided to mount the following two studies in late 1997 (early 1998) and late 1998, respectively: The Role of the History of Mathematics in the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics, the study conference of which is going to be held in France, and the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics at University Level, for which no site has been determined as yet.

With respect to future studies, the following ideas, among others, were under consideration by the EC:

* Proofs and proving in mathematics education * Stohastics in mathematics education * The professional development of teachers of mathematics, from primary school to university * Mathematics for and from the work-place

General Assembly delegates were encouraged to send comments and suggestions concerning the ICMI studies to the Secretary. Margaret Brown, UK, thought that it would be valuable to mount a study in which practising teachers could take part. Perhaps the prospective study on the professional development of teachers would provide a suitable opportunity to this end.

Affiliated Study Groups, future plans John Fauvel, Chair of the HPM, mentioned that the next major activity of the HPM was a meeting which was going to be held in Braga, Portugal, immediately after ICME-8. The next HPM meeting was scheduled for Caracas, Venezuela, in 1998. Besides, the HPM very much looked forward to participating in and contributing to the forthcoming ICMI study on history (cf. previous item). He finally informed the Assembly that his successor as the Chair of the HPM had now been elected: Jan van Maanen, The Netherlands.

Stephen Lerman, the President of the PME, referred to the XXth PME meeting (1996) which had just been held in Valencia, prior to ICME-8, as having attracted more than 400 participants. This made it the largest PME meeting ever held. The meetings in 1997 and 1998 are to be held in Lahti, Finland, and Stellenbosch, South Africa, respectively. He further informed the Assembly that one of the important issues on the agenda was a widening of the access to the PME, in particular in terms of geographical representation.

No representatives of the IOWME or the WFNMC were present at the General Assembly.

Solidarity Programme and Fund The President reminded the General Assembly of the genesis of the Solidarity Programme and Fund at ICME-7, in 1992, and briefly outlined the development since then as well as the current state of the Solidarity Programme and Fund. As an example, he mentioned the work done in El Salvador by a large international group of mathematics educators (mainly, but not exclusively, Spanish) to assist master's programmes in statistics and mathematics education. He also mentioned projects to establish centres of excellence in mathematics education and in teacher education in Africa as potential recipients of assistance from the Solidarity Programme and Fund. Although the Fund is still of a fairly modest size, ideas and proposals for small scale projects were called for by the EC.

Miguel de Guzman then asked the National Representative of the USA, John Dossey, to sketch the ideas and the initiatives of the US National Sub-Commission of ICMI. John Dossey informed the General Assembly that a scheme which would allow individuals to contribute, on a tax exempt basis, to a variety of activities relevant to this context and channelled through US bodies was now almost in place. The aim is to support specific international and national projects that may help progress in mathematics education. He hoped that this initiative may inspire other National Sub-Commissions to consider establishing analogous structures in their countries.

One participant in the Assembly suggested that the possibility of supplying books and journals to relevant institutions in eligible countries be explored. Another participant proposed that an International Centre for Mathematical Education be established in parallel to similar international centres in theoretical physics and in the mechanical sciences. The President thanked for these ideas and invited delegates to not hesitate to express their views and to make proposals to the EC on these matters at any time.

Regional meetings A meeting of East Asian National Representatives to ICMI is being planned. It is scheduled for Chungbuk, Korea in 1998. In conjunction with this meeting a regional meeting will be held as well. So far, no other plans for future regional meetings are known to the EC.

In addition to the series of successful meetings which have been held in South East Asia and in Latin America, the EC would welcome regional meetings to be mounted in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South Asia. In these regions, no ICMI meeting has been held for very many years, if ever. However, the specific initiative to mount a regional meeting has to come from the region at issue and not from ICMI. In the Bulletin No. 40 (p. 7) the requirements for granting the status of ICMI Regional Meeting to a conference under planning are listed.

ICMI infra-structure Once again, the President encouraged National Representatives to work for the establishment of National Sub-Commissions in their countries, cf. item 2 above.

WMY 2000 The General Assembly was informed that the Executive Committee is in the process of appointing a small Ad Hoc Committee as a combined 'think tank' and 'task force' to take the lead in staging ICMI's contributions to the World Mathematical Year 2000. The EC has decided that ICMI should now begin to work on its own plans. At the moment, the EC is working in the 'brain storming mode'. One idea is to hold an ICMI Study on Mathematics for and from the Work Place in the year 2000 - well separated in time and space from ICME-9.

Another idea is to ask National Representatives to take initiatives with respect to WMY 2000 in their countries in ways that are suitable to the national situations, conditions, and circumstances. For instance, it was thought to be very valuable to produce and collect bibliographical studies of publications concerned with popularisation of mathematics in the ICMI countries. For such and other activities, the help and cooperation of the National Representatives are crucial, as are their ideas and proposals.

In response to this, John Dossey, USA, mentioned that the US National Sub-Commission had suggested to the EC to solicit a series of 'Hilbert type' lectures in mathematics education to form a centre piece in the programme of ICME-9. These lectures should focus on the development in mathematics education during the past, say, 25 years - or more - and pay particular attention to the progress which has been made in mathematics education during the last 100 years. John Dossey thought it would be of utmost importance to speak to the public about these issues as part of the WMY 2000. Miguel de Guzman found this proposal excellent and promised that the EC would encourage the organisers of ICME-9 to work for its realisation.

ICMI and ICM-98 Miguel de Guzman reported on the recent development in the role of ICMI in the International Congresses of Mathematicians. At ICM-94 in Zuerich, it was, in the first place, rather difficult to achieve that ICMI lectures were to be given at the Congress as had been the case with past ICMs. When this was finally achieved, the ICMI lectures were not considered part of the official Congress programme, let alone included in the Proceedings. Instead, ICM-94 organisers had, without consulting ICMI (a body appointed by the IMU), selected and scheduled a few lectures in the section Teaching and Popularization of Mathematics. ICMI was very unhappy with this course of events. It was therefore with great pleasure that the President was able to inform the General Assembly that for ICM-98 in Berlin the situation has been changed considerably. ICMI has been asked by the Chair of the International Programme Committee to appoint the panel in charge of selecting the speakers for the section Teaching and Popularization of Mathematics. This implies that the lectures on these topics will be included in the proceedings and that there will be no special ICMI lectures at ICM-98. Miguel de Guzman concluded by inviting Assembly delegates to inform the EC of the proposals they might have for speakers at ICM-98.

4. Any other business

Stephen Lerman, UK, raised the issue of the nature of the relationship between an Affiliated Study Group and ICMI. This was spurred by the fact the EC had appointed an Ad Hoc Committee on the Identity of the Professional Community of Mathematics Education Researchers without having consulted the PME as a - if not the - major international body devoted to research in mathematics education. Miguel de Guzman explained that the Affiliated Study Groups were independent - and independently created - groups which are neither appointed by ICMI nor acting on its behalf. Anna Sierpinska, Vice-President, emphasised that the Ad Hoc Committee was not a representative body but a working committee. She therefore failed to see what sort of consultation might have been appropriate. Instead, each member of the Committee is expected to seek information and advice from whichever relevant and available source, including, of course, PME. Stephen Lerman said that he had made his point and that he did not want to pursue the matter any further at the Assembly. The issue had caused some dissatisfaction within the PME and he thought that it would have been natural for ICMI to seek the advice of an Affiliated Study Group in such a context.

As no other issues were raised under this item on the agenda the President closed the General Assembly thanking the delegates for a very constructive and productive meeting. On behalf of the Executive Committee he looked forward to further collaboration between all the bodies of ICMI in the years to come.

Mogens Niss, Secretary, 29 July 1996