Cape Town Calculus

Educating others goes far beyond the usual classroom setting for AP Calculus teacher Dr. Joseph Brandell


From March 6th to 11th of 2015, Dr. Joseph Brandell of West Bloomfield High School (WBHS) was able to attend and present at the 2015 annual Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) Educator’s Conference held in Cape Town, South Africa. As a representative of the nonprofit College Board organization, Brandell presented for three days on mathematics curriculum up to and including AP Calculus, which the College Board uses around the world. At the Educator’s Conference, delegates and representatives of different educational organizations and international schools around the world are brought in by AISA to share their knowledge with the community of international schools in Africa. This conference was a conglomeration of many different educational resources around the world, with representatives from organizations such as the Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum group, the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum group, and many universities around the world. Brandell was able to vastly contribute and share his valuable knowledge of the Pre-AP curriculum, Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus curriculum, and teaching strategies with educational professionals all around the world. His audience included teachers and other educational consultants from around Africa, including but not limited to countries such as Cameroon, Sudan, Kenya, and South Africa.

Not only did Brandell spend time at the conference educating and sharing his knowledge, he was also able to explore the greater Cape Town area during his stay.  Brandell experienced a different culture, and saw how poverty affects students around Africa. He says that one of the most compelling things that he witnessed during his trip was the “profound poverty in parts of the city, which was a good life experience.” Seeing the disparities between schools in Africa and the education gaps was a very rewarding experience for Brandell, and he also enjoyed the “intellectual and cultural exchanges [he] had with the other presenters, and with participants at the workshops.”

As well as teaching AP calculus at WBHS, Brandell is one of the three teacher mentoring coordinators for the entire district, and the serves as the math department chairman at WBHS. Brandell was an AP reader for ten years, and has been working for the College Board as an AP consultant since 2000. He has been trained as a presenter for AP Calculus, and as a presenter for both AP vertical teams and Pre-AP vertical teams, which are the classes that students are required to take before they take AP calculus or AP statistics. The College Board has enjoyed over fifteen years of Brandell’s work on these initiatives and has introduced him to many new opportunities such as this past summer, when he presented in a similar way at an AP conference in Guam.

While at the AISA Educator’s Conference, Brandell was not only able to share his knowledge of the AP calculus curriculum but his own teaching strategies at WBHS as well. According to Brandell, “What the College Board does around the country, is what we do at West Bloomfield High School, and I can talk about and see it in our school.” His presentation on the first day was on Pre-AP strategies, and the rich experiences that the students at WBHS are exposed to, because he says that, “Advanced Placement is not just about the tests the first week of May. Advanced Placement is about the process of rich problem-solving, making connections, and I was able to really stress the importance of offering this type of program to all students.” On the second day, Brandell presented on an instructor’s viewpoint of AP Calculus, and was able to talk through different key teaching points and how to prepare students not only for the exams, but problem-solving skills as well. Finally, Brandell presented on how he is able to organize both AP calculus and Pre-AP strategies so that students are well prepared by Pre-AP mathematics classes that they take in order to succeed in their future AP mathematics courses.

Brandell’s hard work was recognized by the head of AP, Trevor Packer. Packer, who is the Senior Vice President of AP and instruction at the College Board, tweeted a picture of Brandell during the conference acknowledging his commitment.

Dr. Brandell twitter trevor packer at 9.35.55 PM

This experience, along with others that Brandell has had and will continue to have, was a truly enriching one that will not only benefit his students, but also students around the world.