Since the mid-80s, ICMI has found it important to involve itself directly in the identification and investigation of issues or topic of particular significance to the theory or practice of contemporary mathematics education, and to invest an effort in mounting specific studies on these themes. The main emphasis of a given Study may be on analytical or action-oriented aspects, but some analytical component will always be present. Built around an international seminar, each Study in directed towards the preparation of a published volume intended to promote and assist discussion and action at the international, national, regional or institutional level.
An ICMI Study is composed of a series of steps. Once a theme has been decided upon by the Executive Committee of ICMI, the EC appoints an International Program Committee which on behalf of ICMI is responsible for conducting the Study. Usually a country which is willing to host the corresponding Study Conference has been identified concurrently with the appointment of the IPC. The first task of the IPC is to produce a Discussion Document in which a number of key issues and sub-themes related to the theme of the Study are identified, presented and described in a preliminary way. The Discussion Document is circulated internationally as widely as possible in journals, magazines, newsletters, etc. Readers are invited to react in writing to the IPC, which then organizes an international ICMI Study Conference with a limited number (50-100) of invited participants. This conference forms a working forum for investigating the theme of the Study. Particular emphasis is given to bringing together both experts in the field and newcomers with interesting ideas or promising work in progress, as well as to gathering representatives with a variety of backgrounds from different regions, traditions, and cultures.
The final outcome of an ICMI Study is a Study Volume, appearing in the (New) ICMI Studies Series edited by the President and the Secretary of ICMI and published (since 1993) by Kluwer Academic Publishers. An ICMI Study Volume is a carefully structured and edited book, not a conference proceedings. The editors normally form a subset of the IPC, with the Chair as the editor-in-chief. Sometimes, however, a conference proceedings or some other form of published material is also produced in addition to the Study Volume.