The ICRME emerged from numerous professional collaborations that were focused on the development and use of Realistic Mathematics Education. In the United States, this partnership was formalized in 2003 as Freudenthal Institute US (FiUS), which was established as a result of the collaboration that had existed for years between the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA and the Freudenthal Institute at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands.
In Fall 2005, FIUS relocated to the University of Colorado Boulder, USA. Since that time a series of biennial International RME conferences were hosted on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. In 2014, the Freudenthal Institute and the Center for STEM Learning at the University of Colorado Boulder established a cooperative partnership to advance common goals in STEM education.
At the 13th International Conference on Mathematics Education (ICME-13) in 2016, a symposium on the Didactics of Dutch Mathematics Education recognized the historical development and ongoing work of RME in numerous countries around the world. As a result, to nurture the broad international interests in the principles and application of RME, the ICRME was formed.