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National Subcommissions of ICMI and their Role in the Reform of Mathematics Education

Alexander Karp, editor
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
International Studies in the History of Mathematics and its Teaching
[Reviewed by
Andrzej Sokolowski
, on
National Submissions of ICMI and their Role in the Reform of Mathematics Education is a book edited by Alexander Karp in the International Studies in the History of mathematics and its Teaching Series published by Springer. It focuses on the works of several national (France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and the USA) subcommissions of the International Commission on Mathematics Instruction (ICMC) between 1908 and 1920.  The book offers broad perspectives on mathematics research and mathematics education as well as the role of mathematicians in mathematics education. To accomplish this, it overcomes disconnected national cultural and social histories and establishes common themes within mathematics education.
From this book, the reader will learn that initially ICMC was the International Commission on the Teaching of Mathematics that was formed in 1908 during the fourth International Congress of Mathematics. Thus ICMC is called a successor of ICTM, and its general aim was making inquiries about principles that inspire mathematics teachers and publishing comprehensive reports on the current trends in the teaching of mathematics in various countries.  
In the opening chapter of the book, F. Furinghetti summaries the general themes and developments from the meetings between 1908 and 1920. Among many interesting facts, the reader will learn that at the conference in Milan in 1911 the delegates discussed what mathematics curriculum should be taught to students of physical and natural sciences which perhaps would be of interest to many STEM curriculum policymakers nowadays as well. A general question of whether to teach with examples, experimental methods or to use partial induction instead of deduction was also brought to the discussion at those meetings.  The theme of the interplay between mathematics and physics methods was brought up also during the meeting in Cambridge in 1912 when an idea of putting aside some parts of theoretical mathematics in favor of developing the techniques of graphing especially when dealing with functions was highlighted. A detailed summary of names and the dates of service of the committees' members along with the number of publications by selected countries conclude this chapter.
The remaining seven sections summarize the work of the subcommissions in France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, and the USA respectively. The uniqueness of the contents of these chapters is that they are written by professors mostly specialized in History of mathematics who currently work in those countries.  The book provides many valuable details about the development of mathematics curricula in those countries, the challenges and the ways the difficulties were resolved. As such, the book can be of interest not only to students of History of mathematics education but also to a broader audience concerned about how to best improve mathematics teaching and learning. 


 Andrzej Sokolowski is a researcher interested in applying mathematical modeling to develop scientific inquiry. 

See the publisher's web page.