Report of PME

The International Group for
the Psychology of Mathematics Education

PME Activities 1992-96


The International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME) will be holding its twentieth annual meeting in Valencia, Spain, in July 1996. Previous annual meetings, since ICME-7, have been held in Tsukuba, Japan (1993), Lisbon, Portugal (1994) and Recife, Brazil (1995). It is significant that the 1996 meeting will have the largest attendance, with the largest number of research reports proposed and accepted, of any meeting in PME's history, with appproximately 480 people pre-registrered to date (15 May 1996). Whilst this is in part due to the proximity, both geographically and in time, of ICME-8 the previous largest meeting was in Lisbon (1994). The smaller attendance at the 1995 meeting may have been due to its being held in Brazil. It remains the policy of PME to hold meetings in different countries, on the invitation of groups in those countries, and PME endeavours to ensure a balance between northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere meetings, and between countries where the PME membership is small and where it is large.

Thus it appears that PME is growing in size. I believe this reflects: its growing stature internationally, and in particular the importance of the annual Proceedings and other publications (see below) to researchers in mathematics education; its eclecticism, in the sense of the interpretations of 'psychology' as the focus; the growing maturity of the academic discipline of mathematics education throughout the world; and also the growing pressures on academics to publish research. Greater size is a mixed blessing, as it may bring other problems: it may be harder for some countries to organise a large conference; PME has always had a certain intimacy due to the small numbers attending; and large groups implies more parallel presentations of research reports or a longer, and therefore more expensive, conference. The International Committee and the membership of PME will need to take this into account, together with other factors, as it considers in general its direction, research focus, etc. in moving into its third decade.


D. Tall (Ed.) (1991)
"Advanced Mathematical Thinking", Kluwer: Dordrecht
A. Bishop, K. Hart, S. Lerman, T. Nunes (1993):
"Significant Influences on Children's Learning of Mathematics", UNESCO Document Series, No. 47
P. Nesher & J. Kilpatrick (Eds.) (1990):
"Mathematics and Cognition: A Research Synthesis", ICMI Study Series, Cambridge University Press.


A major change administrative to PME has been the appointment of an Executive Secretary, Dr. Joop van Dormolen, which took effect soon after the 1991 meeting in Assisi. He was in place from the meeting in New Hampshire, in 1992. As the new President, I know I have the support of the past Presidents, Kath Hart and Carolyn Kieran, and the PME membership, in recording here in this report that he has been and continues to be of enormous value to the management of PME.

A constitutional change has been that the President now serves for three years, instead of the previous two.

The structure of the meetings is always modified by each local programme committee but there has been one formal change to the programme each year in that there is now a new form of presentation of research, called the Research Forum. First established in 1995, the forum invites researchers with a well-established and active research-programme to offer a presentation of their research in a more substantial form than is possible in research reports. The reports are followed by prepared responses by others well known in the field and there is an opportunity for substantial reaction and feedback from the audience. The aim is for there to be two presentations on each theme and reactions from each research group to the other. Both last year and this, one of the themes has had two presenations whilst the other has had just one.

Recently a custom that PME had before has been taken up again, by taking a theme for the meeting as a whole, reflected in two of the plenary presentations and the plenary panel drawing on that theme. In Recife (1995) the theme was Socio-cultural Perspectives on the Psychology of Mathematics Education and the theme of the 1996 meeting in Valencia will be Language and Mathematics.

PME has an Honorary Member, its first President, Efraim Fischbein. We have lost a number of founder members in recent years, including a former Honorary Member Hans Freudenthal, a former President, Richard Skemp, Nicolas Herscovics and Merlyn Behr.

Officers and International Committee of PME

In 1992/3 the President was Carolyn Kieran, the Vice-President Gilah Leder, the Treasurer Angel Gutierrez, and the Secretary Martin Cooper. In 1993/4 the President was Carolyn Kieran, the Vice-President Mariolina Bartolini Bussi, the Treasurer Angel Gutierrez, and the Secretary was Martin Cooper. In 1994/5 the President was Carolyn Kieran, the Vice-President Mariolina Bartolini Bussi, the Treasurer Stephen Lerman, and the Secretary Judy Sowder. In this current academic year, 1995/6, the President is Stephen Lerman, the Vice-President is Jere Confrey, the Treasurer is Avraham Arcavi and the Secretary is Judy Sowder. The editor of PME News, which is published every November and May, is Kaye Stacey.

The other members of the International Committee at this time are: Jill Adler, Paul Ernest, Maria Alessandra Mariotti, Jo|o Filipe Matos, Luciano Meira, Judy Mousley, Raphael Nunez, Erkki Pehkonen, Luis Puig, Teresa Rojano, Keiichi Shigematsu, Kaye Stacey, and Erna Yackel.

Working Groups

A major part of the scientific work of PME takes place in the Working Groups. Some have been active for many years, going through transformations as the convenors change, and in some cases as the groups publish the results of their work and a new agenda is set. Others grow out of successive years of the meetings of Discussion Groups which then see their way to an on-going programme of research and, with the agreement of the International Committee, become Working Groups. Others still come to the end of their 'Working' life and have ceased to function. Currently the Working Groups and their convenors are:

Advanced Mathematical Thinking:
D. Reid
Algebraic Processes and Structures:
T. Rojano and L. Raford
Classroom Research:
A. Teppo and C. Maher
Cultural Aspects in the Learning of Mathematics
B. Nedys and P. Laridon
M.A. Mariotti and A.L. Mesquita
Research on the Psychology of Mathematics Teacher Development
N. Ellerton
Social Aspects of Mathematics Education
L. Rogers
Teachers as Researchers in Mathematics Education
C. Breen

Reports of the recent work of the groups can be found in PME News, copies of which can be obtained from the editor, Kaye Stacey, or the Executive Secretary, Joop van Dormolen.

The Future

All aspects of the running of the International Group come under review by the International Committee each year, and of course by the membership at the Annual General Meetings. This year the Committee will, in particular, undertake a review of the Working Groups and Discussion Groups, examine the policies for the distribution of the Richard Skemp Memorial Fund, which is used to support the attendance of people who, for racial, political or philosophical reasons find difficulty in attending the PME conferences; and commence discussions concerning the nature of the Group over the next twenty years of PME. In the last two years the International Committee has been developing a policy to encourage participation from people in under-represented countries. One strategy has been to include this as a criterion in the distribution of the Richard Skemp Memorial Fund.

The meeting in 1997 will be held in Lahti, Finland, from 14 to 19 July. The meeting in 1998 will be held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, although exact dates have not yet been determined.

Stephen Lerman, President
South Bank University, London, UK