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Mundher Al-Adhami obituary

Mundher Al-Adhami, who has died suddenly aged 79, was a maths teacher who moved into research and development. In this work he focused on the structure of progression in learning and on constructing lessons that encourage active engagement in mathematical thinking for all children.

A passionate intellectual activist and writer, Mundher was always trying to understand the world and working to improve it, whether in education or Middle Eastern politics. He was a generous collaborator and stimulating friend.

Born in Baghdad, he was one of 16 children of Fatima Jawad Asia and Nouman Mohammed Al-Adhami, a grain wholesaler. After attending Markazia high school, he left Iraq to study geophysics at the universities of Moscow and Durham.

Throughout his life, he was involved in publishing for and leading Iraqi and Palestinian solidarity movements, and was a member of the BRussells tribunal on the Iraq war. With his second wife, Haifa Zangana, whom he met at a political demonstration in 1988 and married in 1992, he later endowed prizes for Iraqi writers.

He had several temporary teaching posts in Durham but the first permanent post was at Elliott school in Putney, south-west London, where he moved to in 1974, then John Archer school in Wandsworth, which later merged into Wandsworth school. When I first met him, he was head of maths there.

He then moved to become a key member of the project team of graded assessment in mathematics (Gaim) at King’s College London, developing a teacher-assessed scheme for 11- to 16-year-olds that could be traded in for a final GCSE grade. The job involved researching and trialling a framework of progression in understanding, partly assessed by individual and group problem-solving, and later administering the Gaim GCSE.

Two related projects at King’s followed, one secondary and one primary, on cognitive acceleration in mathematics education (Came), working with teachers to develop crafted “thinking maths” lessons based on the Gaim framework and informed by cognitive psychology. All these projects gave rise to published teacher resources and academic books and papers, to which Mundher richly contributed. He continued as chief executive of the educational consultancy Cognitive Acceleration Associates, and founder of the charity Let’s Think Forum, working with schools to improve their teaching of maths.

While latterly enjoying his winters in Tunisia, Mundher continued writing, editing and collaborating internationally right up to his death, contributing with his customary wisdom, humanity and passion to both politics and maths teaching.

He is survived by Haifa, his two children, Youssef and Rheem, from his first marriage to Helen (nee Vesey), from whom he was divorced, four grandchildren, a stepdaughter, and 10 of his 15 siblings.

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