The International Commission on Mathematical Instruction was established at the Fourth International Congress of Mathematicians in Rome, 1908. Following interruptions in activity as a result of the First and Second World Wars, ICMI was reconstituted in 1952 and became an official commission of the International Mathematical Union (IMU).
As a scientific union, IMU is a member of the International Council for Science (ICSU). This implies that through IMU, ICMI is to abide by the ICSU statutes, one of which (Statute 5) establishes the Principle of the Universality of Science, the essential elements of which are non-discrimination and equity. Through this principle, ICSU affirms the right and freedom of scientists to participate without discrimination and on an equitable basis in legitimate scientific activities, whether they be conducted in a national, transnational or international context, regardless of their citizenship, religion, political stance, ethnic origin, sex, etc. Apart from observing IMU and ICSU general rules and principles, ICMI works with a large degree of autonomy.
The General Assembly of ICMI meets during the International Congresses on Mathematical Education (ICMEs), held every four years. This Assembly is responsible in particular for the election of the Executive Committee of ICMI, which includes the presiding officers of ICMI.
The General Assembly of IMU formally adopts ICMI's Terms of Reference as well as the procedures for the election of the Executive Committee of ICMI. Moreover the vast majority of the current funding of ICMI comes from an IMU subvention that is approved by the IMU General Assembly. ICMI files an annual report of its activities and a financial report to the IMU Executive Committee for endorsement. Furthermore, ICMI files quadrennial reports at General Assembly meetings of both IMU and ICMI.