Realistic Mathematics Education, or RME, is the Dutch answer to the world-wide felt need to reform the teaching and learning of mathematics. The roots of the Dutch reform movement go back to the early seventies when the first ideas for RME were conceptualized. It was a reaction to both the American "New Math" movement that was likely to flood our country in those days, and to the then prevailing Dutch approach to mathematics education, which often is labeled as "mechanistic mathematics education."
Since the early days of RME much development work connected to developmental research has been carried out. If anything is to be learned from the Dutch history of the reform of mathematics education, it is that such a reform takes time. This sounds like a superfluous statement, but it is not. Again and again, too optimistic thoughts are heard about educational innovations. The following statement indicates how we think about this: The development of RME is thirty years old now, and we still consider it as "work under construction."
That we see it in this way, however, has not only to do with the fact that until now the struggle against the mechanistic approach to mathematics education has not been completely conquered— especially in classroom practice much work still has to be done in this respect. More determining for the continuing development of RME is its own character. It is inherent to RME, with its founding idea of mathematics as a human activity, that it can never be considered a fixed and finished theory of mathematics education.