The CFEM (Commission française pour l'enseignement des mathématiques) is the National Sub-commission of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) in France. It is composed of representatives from various bodies related to mathematics and mathematics education in France: the association of public education mathematics teachers (APMEP - Association des professeurs de mathématiques de l'enseignement public), the assembly of directors of IREMs (Institut de recherche en enseignement des mathématiques), the French association for research in mathematics education (Association pour la recherche en didactique des mathématiques), the French National Committee for the International Mathematical Union, the mathematical group of the general inspectorate (Groupe mathématique de l'inspection générale), the union of teachers of preparatory classes to the "Grandes écoles" (Union des professeurs de spéciales) and the French mathematical society (SMF - Société mathématique de France).
On the occasion of the World Mathematical Year 2000, the CFEM, under the impulsion of its president, Bernard Cornu, has organized in Grenoble on July 15-17, 2000, a symposium on the theme L'enseignement des mathématiques dans les pays francophones au XXe siècle et ses perspectives pour le début du XXIe siècle (Mathematics education in French-speaking countries in the XXth century and prospects for the beginning of the XXIth century) . This meeting has been officially recognized as an ICMI Regional Conference. It was the first such event where the "region" was defined not in geographical but rather in linguistic terms, the gathering being based on a common language.
The Local Organizing Committee was supported, in Grenoble, by the Université Joseph Fourier et by the IUFM - Institut universitaire de formation des maîtres - and, at the national level, by all components of the CFEM. The scientific program was defined by an International Programme Committee chaired by Professor Pierre Jullien, former director of the IREM of Grenoble and former director of the IUFM of Aix-Marseille.
The aims of the symposium were:
A total of 178 teachers and researchers from all levels participated in the symposium, coming from 18 different countries: Algeria (6), Belgium (6), Brazil (3), Burkina (2), Canada (19), Central African Republic (1), France (93), Germany (1), Italy (4), Ivory Coast (1), Luxembourg (2), Morocco (5), Mauritania (4), Spain (1), Tunisia (16), Uruguay (1), USA (1), Viet Nam (2).
Most participants attended on an individual basis, sometimes two or three together. But two well-identified groups were present, one consisting of twelve young secondary school mathematics teachers from Québec having recently graduated - their participation was made financially possible by the Office franco-québécois pour la jeunesse - and the other composed of fifteen Tunisian teachers participating in an in-service program in Lyon. The presence of these two groups brought of lot a dynamism and vitality to the symposium!
In order to bridge the gap between generations of teachers, the organizers had proposed reduced registrations fees for participants under 35 of age. This objective was achieved to a certain extent as some 30 participants belonged to this category.
The program of the meeting was both dense and rich. During the three days were offered: two plenary talks; six main lectures given in parallel, two at a time; four round tables, two at a time; 27 workshops, distributed over four sessions; 29 communications, in five sessions; and nine working groups. In addition, a remarkable exhibition about Pythagoras had been brought by Belgian colleagues, and there were booths where books publishers and calculators companies presented their products.
Most presentations explicitly made reference to a specific historical and geographical context. The participation of people from regions often quite different allowed to discuss the gaps that may exist, among the various countries, in the schooling systems, in research or in the education of teachers.
The themes covered were extremely diverse, going from the history of mathematics to its current evolution and dealing with issues such as: mathematics education in the XIXth and in the XXth centuries; teacher education; didactical aspects of mathematics education; the advent of new technologies, in particular possible uses of the Internet or of dynamical geometry software such as Cabri-géomètre; applications and modelling; role and assessment of proofs and proving in mathematics education. Needless to say international collaboration was also an important theme of the symposium.
In addition to the many direct contacts between colleagues from different countries, the symposium EM 2000 was the occasion for a deeper mutual knowledge of the diversity of mathematics education taking place in the French language around the world. It also strengthened collaboration between French African or South East Asian countries and France, for instance in the preparation of school teachers or of researchers in mathematics education.
In their words of thanks to the organizers, many participants stressed the exceptional conviviality that reigned throughout the gathering. This conviviality resulted from may factors:
The limit the effects of the hot temperature typical of the Grenoble basin in July, a "fête champêtre" had been planned on the second evening, on the heights of Fort du Saint-Eynard, on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Isère valley. The rain of the previous days had somewhat chilled the outside temperature, but in contrast the atmosphere was extremely warm inside, especially in the room where quite a few colleagues from the Maghreb had initially gathered. But the obligation of resuming the scientific work early the next morning put an end to an evening that remains in the memories of all participants.
The EM 2000 symposium has allowed colleagues from countries quite different, but united by a common language, to meet around themes of interest to them, to discuss these themes and to establish contacts. The participation of African colleagues was particularly important in all aspects to the success of the symposium. But it is a pity that they could not be more numerous, due to the lack of funding. The almost unanimous wish of participants was that such an initiative should be renewed in a near future (two or three years). Who will launch the process?
Parts of the proceedings of the EM 2000 symposium can now be accessed on the symposium website:
Bernard Cornu, Président de la CFEM
IUFM de Grenoble, 30 avenue Marcelin Berthelot
38100 Grenoble, France
Pierre Jullien, Président du Comité de programme de l'EM 2000
La Tortue, 13590 Meyreuil, France
Laboratoire IMAG-Leibniz, Université Joseph Fourier
46 avenue Felix Viallet 38031 Grenoble, France