Skip to main content

IMU-Net 16: March 2006

A Bimonthly Email Newsletter from the International Mathematical Union 
Editor: Mireille Chaleyat-Maurel, Universit&eacute René Descartes, Paris, France


Every student understands things worse than the best of his teachers. Therefore any closed educational system degenerates with exponential speed to a system of formal rituals, unless its continuous superior teacher is Nature. This theorem has numerous confirmations in countries where (by their own laziness or other reasons) the research scientists weaken their service as the intermediate link, i.e. in instructing the future teachers, or teachers of teachers, etc. I can only ask the Reader not to be this lazy...

The list of important purposes of education breaks quite artificially into two parts, depending on whether they can be explained to (and accepted by) politicians, taxpayers and lazy students, or not. The first list orients us to practical formal algorithms of everyday life, the second to understanding and concepts. In the case of mathematics, the discriminated against part contains, in particular, the art of distinguishing correct considerations from wrong ones and understanding the logical structure of everything; it has its origins in the techniques of proving, first of all in geometry. The number of logical oops in political talks, interviews and ads is huge, and the fact of their public success is horrible. (Occasionally, a meeting point of these two parts is Statistics : Pragmatically oriented courses and related tests often teach one to accept statistical information in a predictable and unified way rather than in the mathematically correct one.) In some countries these problems have been already widely discussed, while some others face them only now. I hope that the (sometimes sad) experience of the former can help the latter to avoid making the same errors. Again, the active expertise by professional scientists should be very important here.

Victor Vassiliev
Member of the Executive Committee of IMU

IMU News

The IMU Executive Committee met in Berlin 27-28 February. The main topics of discussion involved preparations for ICM 2006 and for the IMU General Assembly to be held in Santiago de Compostela (Spain). Proposed changes to the Statutes and Procedures for Elections, together with the General Assembly agenda, will be communicated to Adhering Organizations in due course.

ICM 2006

    The exhibition "The Life of Numbers" aims to illustrate through manuscripts, books and other objects the life history of the mathematical element best known by the general public: Numbers.
    Exhibition at the Biblioteca national de Espana
    June-September 2006
  2. The ICM through History
    This exhibition will review the history of the twenty four times the International Congress of Mathematicians has taken place since the first was held in Zürich in 1897.
    The exhibition will be displayed at the Congress site.
  3. Experiencing Mathematics!
    The exhibition "Experiencing Mathematics!" has its origins in the activities organized in 2000 by the International Mathematical Union on the occasion of the World Year of Mathematics.
    It has been sponsored by UNESCO and planned by the Centre Science of Orléans (France).
    Centro cultural Conde Duque,
    Madrid August-October 2006.
  4. Archimedes' works : the ICM2006 edition
    A facsimile edition of one work by Archimedes
    (translated with commentary).
  5. Fractal Art: Beauty and Mathematics
    To commemorate an event as important as the ICM and as a tribute to Benoit Mandelbrot, a Fractal Art exhibition is prepared at the Centro Cultural Conde Duque and at the Congress site. It will exhibit high quality works by the most important fractal artists in the world.
  6. A treasury of Mathematics: El Escorial and its Library
    Special Activity for the ICM 2006
    Mathematical visit to El Escorial and its library.
    Guided visits to El Escorial Monastery and its Library. Departure from ICM 2006 venue (Palacio Municipal de Congresos) on 24, 25, 26, 27 & 29 Aug at 10.00h.
    Duration: Approx: 4 hours.
  7. Demoscene: Mathematics in movement
    Demoscene consists in making computer programs in Assembly or in languages of high potential and graphic efficiency, always generated in real time, occupying a minimum of space in the computer memory, usually about 64 K.
    Location: Centro Cultural Conde Duque and Congress site

IMU on the Web

It's quite a bit easier to make a list of tasks to be done than actually to do them. In that spirit, I mention several IMU on the Web items I or my CEIC colleagues will write about --- one of these days.

  1. Versioning: It is easy to change, even completely to delete, an electronic document. Clear rules in the spirit of the fine ones applied by the arXiv, see {}, must be adopted and rigorously observed by electronic journals if our research literature is to remain well-defined.
  2. MATHML: What is it? Why? See {}.
  3. The NUMDAM experience: The high standards adopted, the quality, and the volume of output of Cellule Mathdoc at Grenoble make NUMDAM a model numérisation=retrodigitisation effort. See {}.
  4. Citations, impact factors, and other questionable statistics (see {} for some preliminary remarks).
  5. How is a small academic journal to survive?
  6. The World Digital Mathematics Library, see {}; the DLMF {}.

There'll be more of this list next time I forget to write or to solicit suitable items.

Alf van der Poorten,, member of the CEIC.

Abel Prize

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has decided to award the 2006 Abel Prize to Lennart Carleson, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. This was announced by the president of the Norwegian Academy, Ole Didrik Lærum, in Oslo on 23 March. Carleson receives the Abel Prize "for his profound and seminal contributions to harmonic analysis and the theory of smooth dynamical systems", says Erling Størmer, the chairman of the international Abel Committee. HRH King Harald will present the Abel Prize to Lennart Carleson at an award ceremony in Oslo 23 May 2006.


The International Commission for the History of Mathematics (ICHM) continues to pursue its dual aims of encouraging the study of the history of mathematics and of promoting a high level of historically and mathematically sophisticated scholarship in the field internationally.

Among its ongoing projects are:

  1. the publication of Historia Mathematica, the official journal of the ICHM. Historia appears four times annually and publishes roughly 525 pages of original research in the history of mathematics from all times and cultures. From 2003 to the present, it has been edited by Craig Fraser (Canada) and Benno van Dalen (Germany). It is published by Elsevier Science and is available electronically to subscribers of IDEAL.
  2. the compilation of a database of information on historians of mathematics around the world. It is the ICHM's hope that a reasonably complete database of historians of mathematics will be available in 2006.

In 2005, the ICHM also awarded the Kenneth O. May Medal, a prize given every four years to the historian or historians of mathematics whose work best exemplifies the high scholarly and intellectual contributions to the field that May worked so hard to achieve. It was awarded for the fifth time to Henk Bos (The Netherlands) for his ground-breaking work on the history of seventeenth-century mathematics. The ICHM also participated prominently in the International Congress for the History of Science ( held in Beijing, China in July 2005.
In addition to these symposia, the ICHM also held its quadrennial general business meeting on Monday, 25 July at the China Museum of Science and Technology.
Finally, the ICHM co-sponsored a special session in the history of mathematics at the annual joint meetings of the American Mathematical Society held in San Antonio, Texas in January 2006.

Full accounts of all of the ICHM´s activities may be found on its website at

Karen Hunger Parshall, Chair ICHM

ICMI : The ICMI Studies: Recent and Future Activities

Since the mid-80s, the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) has found it important to involve itself directly in the identification and investigation of issues or topics of particular significance to the theory or practice of contemporary mathematics education, and to invest efforts in mounting specific studies on these themes. This has resulted in a most successful set of activities of the Commission, the "ICMI Study Programme" (
Each ICMI Study addresses an issue or topic of particular significance in contemporary mathematics education, and is conducted by an international team of leading scholars and practitioners in that domain. The Study is built around an international conference gathering both experts and newcomers to the field, and is directed towards the preparation of a published volume which aims to offer a coherent, state-of-the art representation of the domain of the Study. These Study volumes appear in the New ICMI Study Series (NISS ---, published by Springer under the general editorship of the President and Secretary-General of ICMI. The Study Volume resulting from the 13th ICMI Study ("Mathematics Education in Different Cultural Traditions: A Comparative Study of East-Asia and the West") has recently appeared (NISS, vol. 9). The next two volumes in the series (resulting from the 14th ICMI Study on "Applications and Modelling in Mathematics Education", and the 15th ICMI Study on "The Professional Education and Development of Teachers of Mathematics") will be published respectively in 2006 and 2007. Two study conferences will take place in 2006: ICMI Study 16 ("Challenging Mathematics In and Beyond the Classroom") and Study 17 ("Digital Technologies and Mathematics Teaching and Learning: Rethinking the Terrain"). The ICMI Executive Committee has recently launched two new Studies: the 18th Study, on "Statistics Education in School Mathematics: Challenges for Teaching and Teacher Education", organized jointly with the International Association for Statistical Education (IASE), and Study 19, on "The Role of Mathematical Reasoning and Proving in Mathematics Education". The corresponding study conferences will take place in 2008 and 2009.

Bernard R. Hodgson
Secretary-General of ICMI

Subscribing to IMU-Net

There are two ways of subscribing to IMU-Net:

  1. Click here with a Web browser and go to the "Subscribe" button to subscribe to IMU-Net online.
  2. Send an e-mail to with the Subject-line: Subject: subscribe


In both cases you will get an e-mail to confirm your subscription so that misuse will be minimized. IMU will not use the list of IMU-Net emails for any purpose other than sending IMU-Net, and will not make it available to others.

Previous issues can be seen here.