ICMI, the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction, was founded at the Fourth International Congress of Mathematicians in Rome in 1908. It was governed by a Comité Central consisting of Felix Klein, president; George Greenhill, vice-president; and Henri Fehr, secretary-general (Schubring, 2022). Belgium participated in ICMI from its establishment in 1908. Participating countries were represented by national delegates who formed the broader international committee. Belgium was assigned one delegate. These delegates played a bridging role between ICMI and the country they represented. On the one hand, they had to supply information on the state of mathematics instruction in their country to ICMI. For that purpose, survey-based national reports were prepared. On the other hand, national delegates were expected to promote the activities of ICMI in their country. To assist the national delegate(s), most countries established a national subcommission of ICMI. In 1909 the composition of a Belgian subcommission was published in L’Enseignement Mathématique (EM), the official organ of ICMI. It consisted of Joseph Neuberg (national delegate) and four education inspectors. This team represented different levels of mathematics teaching in various types of institutes: schools for general education, industrial and professional schools, and teacher training colleges.


Karp (2019) provides detailed studies of the history of the national subcommissions of ICMI of France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, and the United States of America; their origin, context, functioning and publications are analyzed. Until now, the history of the Belgian subcommission has not been systematically studied. With this paper, we attempt to fill this gap in the research literature on ICMI. We focus on the 1908–1920 period and the period after ICMI’s reconstitution in 1952. This is already a step toward fulfilling Karp’s (2019) hope “that, in time, this book will have a continuation devoted to other countries” (p. vii). Moreover, our research action provides valuable information on the organization and characteristics of the teaching of mathematics in Belgium; a history of which the first half of the 20th century is underexposed in the research literature. For the early history of ICMI, we relied mainly on the information in EM and on the reports of the Belgian subcommission of ICMI (see, e.g., Commission Internationale de l’Enseignement Mathématique, 1911). For the period after World War II, the information in EM is scarcer, but we were able to complement it with information from archives, national journals and testimonies from surviving national delegates.



Commission Internationale de l’Enseignement Mathématique (1911). Rapports sur l’enseignement des mathématiques, du dessin et du travail manuel dans les écoles primaires, les écoles normales primaires, les écoles moyennes, les athénées et les collèges belges. Brussels: J. Goemaere.

Karp, Alexander (Ed.) (2019). National subcommissions of ICMI and their role in the reform of mathematics education. Cham: Springer. 

Schubring, Gert (2022). The history of ICMI: The first phase as IMUK and CIEM. In F. Furinghetti & L. Giacardi (Eds.), The International Commission on Mathematical Instruction, 1908–2008: People, events, and challenges in mathematics education (pp. 3–42). Cham: Springer.