ZDM Mathematics Education has a distinguished lineage, reaching back to the origins of mathematics education as a discipline in the 1960s. First published in 1969 under the name The International Journal on Mathematics Education, abbreviated ZDM, the journal then highlighted important international events in mathematics education, with a largely German readership.

The journal was originally founded as an informational and encyclopaedic review on mathematics education. It was initiated by Emmanuel Röhrl, who at that time was the head of the editorial staff for mathematics and physics at Klett Publishing House, and Hans-Georg Steiner, who was working at the Centre for Didactics of Mathematics at the University of Karlsruhe. Hans-Georg Steiner had served as chair of the programme committee of the 3rd International Congress on Mathematics Education (ICME-3), which had taken place in 1976 in Karlsruhe. In this capacity he had seen the necessity of international publication possibilities in mathematics education as well as the need to review the growing body of publications in this area. He was supported by Heinz Kunle from Karlsruhe, who had served as chair of the local organising committee of ICME-3. The Internationale Mathematische Unterrichtskommission (IMUK)—International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI)—supported the journal as co-publisher. In June 1969 the first edition of the new journal, with the abbreviated name ‘ZDM’, came out.

The journal was characterised by its division into two parts, according to the twofold function of ZDM: the documentation section, which was defined as the main part of ZDM, and the analysis section. The documentation section gave an overview of new publications and was printed on cards that could be detached. The analysis section was meant to reflect on the current discussion in mathematics education. From 1969 to 1976, the editorial work of ZDM was done by Hans Wäsche, a retired senior teacher from Lübeck. Hans-Georg Steiner who had then moved to the recently founded Institute for Didactics of Mathematics in Bielefeld, devoted his time to the internationalisation of the documentation section and it attained a significant degree of success. Until his death in 2004, Hans-Georg Steiner remained closely connected with ZDM and participated actively in the internationalisation process of ZDM. Thanks to him, ZDM had an English title ‘International Interviews on Mathematical Education’ from its very beginning.

In 1976, the responsibility for the journal was delegated to the Zentralstelle für Atomkernenergie-Dokumentation (ZAED)—Nuclear Energy Documentation Centre. In 1978 the journal was taken over by the Fachinformationszentrum Energie, Physik, Mathematik (FIZ)—the Leibniz Institute for Information—in connection with the demand for modernisation and internationalisation. Gerhard König, who had originally worked for the publisher Klett became Managing Editor of ZDM and ZAED and kept these positions until his retirement in 2004. He officially represented ZDM at all leading conferences in mathematics education and caused the journal to become well known already very early in the history of the international community on mathematics education.

ZDM was supported by the Verein zur Förderung der Didaktik der Mathematik (Organization for the promotion of didactics of mathematics) under the chairmanship of Heinz Kunle and Hans-Georg Steiner and the FIZ. There the relevant international journals were evaluated for the documentation section, and, based on co-operation with various national and international institutions, many non-German publications were included into the database on mathematics education. In 1998 the former documentation section of ZDM was integrated into the European Mathematical Information Service so that it became available electronically as a web-based database.

In 2001 the analysis section was excluded from the ZDM print version due to budgetary reasons. Since then the analysis section has been available only electronically. The new electronic journal was published and edited under the auspices of the Fachinformationszentrum Karlsruhe (FIZ Karlsruhe), together with the European Society for Mathematics (ESM) and the Gesellschaft für Didaktik der Mathematik (GDM)—Society of Didactics of Mathematics—which took over the rights and responsibilities of the dissolved and above mentioned organisation Verein zur Förderung der Didaktik der Mathematik.

In 2006 further changes followed which resulted in an official separation of the two parts of ZDM, namely the reviews and the analyses sections, a fact formerly reflected by the two names. The original documentation section of ZDM, the actual database, was distributed under the name MATHDI/MATHEDUC—International Reviews in Mathematical Education, while the former analysis section was published under the title The International Journal on Mathematics Education. At the same time the international nature of the journal was developing further, which became obvious from the international editorial board and the exclusive use of the English language in its publications.

In the year 2007, the 39th volume of ZDM, Springer started to publish the journal. The original abbreviation of the journal ZDM was maintained, in order to refer to its origin. However, with the implementation of a new sub-title The International Journal on Mathematics Education, the opening to an international audience became clear, offering new opportunities, both in scope and reach. The core idea was to continue to publish focused thematic volumes on issues of central importance, such as curricula, assessment, problem solving, and professional development. Authors and editors were to represent the best of mathematics education around the world, and the readership was intended to be equally broad.

With Springer entering the stage, an international editorial board was implemented, thus integrating international scholars with those who were German-speaking, including the continuing Editor-in-chief, Gabriele Kaiser, who had already worked in this function since 2004. The bimonthly frequency of publication was maintained, with six issues per year. However, in contrast to the previous publication form, the journal was published both in printed format and in a web-based online version, the latter offering access to a much broader international readership via the worldwide presence of Springer.

The structure of ZDM, which had been developed during the last decade, was not changed. Thematically based issues, edited by invited guest-editors with invited papers, still characterised the journal representing topical mathematics educational approaches and the current state in mathematics education. The first issue published by Springer was dedicated to the memory of Hans-Georg Steiner and his efforts to establish mathematics didactics as a scientific discipline. With this issue ZDM went back to its roots in honour of Hans-Georg Steiner, whose constant endeavour made the existence of ZDM possible.

In recent years, each issue published is comprised of about 12–14 original papers, and additionally one survey paper on the state-of-the-art on the topic of this issue, and one or two commentary papers. As a result of this format, about 90 manuscripts are published per year, covering around 1100 pages (in standard paper-size and two-column format). With the introduction of a survey paper on the state-of-the-art in 2014, ZDM aimed to give even more concisely an overview of the latest developments concerning the topic of the specific issue. Commentary papers, which were introduced a few years earlier, aimed to provoke a discussion on the theme of the issue, which could not always be achieved. Therefore the practice of including commentary papers was given up in recent years.

A further milestone of the development of ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education was the change of the subtitle in 2015 leading to the current title of the journal as ZDM Mathematics Education. The main reason behind this decision was the ambiguity of the original subtitle The International Journal on Mathematics Education, which led to diverse perceptions of the thrust of the journal, which was not helpful for shaping a clear identity for this publication. It was therefore an obvious consequence to choose a distinct sub-title complementing ZDM and keeping the original roots. With the current name ZDM Mathematics Education, the aim is an unambiguous title preserving the roots as The International Journal on Mathematics Education.

Furthermore, ZDM Mathematics Education is characterised by strong support with an editorial office and language editing for papers of non-native speakers of English. This strong support by Springer allowed the establishment of a journal with a broad range of themes and topics reaching readers not only in Europe or North America; in contrast ZDM Mathematics Education is now widely accepted in many Asian countries, showing the high interest of many Asian scholars in mutual exchange and joint learning processes. The strong German roots of ZDM Mathematics Education are apparent in the high importance of subject-specific issues and subject-related analyses in many issues, reflecting the appreciation for and priority given to the subject mathematics and content-related reflections.

Currently ZDM Mathematics Education is accepted widely and listed as one of the seven leading journals in mathematics education (see Nivens and Otten 2017, Williams and Leatham 2017) and included in many indexing services, amongst others the Emerging Sources Citation Index. ZDM Mathematics Education will hopefully continue to grow in its international acceptance and reach and will contribute to the further development of mathematics education as a scientific discipline.