The need for a scientific calculator is inevitable at some point in high school and college. Scientific calculators assist with logarithms, functions, equations and scientific formulas. Students are allowed to use them on standardized tests, including the SAT and ACT.
The variety of calculators and prices can be confusing and overwhelming. Below are a few things to consider before sinking too much, or too little money into a scientific calculator.
Which calculator does the teacher required or recommended?
This information should be available on the class syllabus, or on-line. However, before purchasing a calculator realize the teacher may recommend a specific brand and model because that is the one with which he is most familiar. This enables the teacher to give one quick lesson teaching students how to use their calculators. They then expect the students to be able to use their calculator on their own.
You may be able to find a calculator with the same functions, at a better price. Texas Instruments has long set the standard for scientific calculators. There are other reliable brands that cost less. If you choose another calculator take time to assist your child in learning how the calculator functions. Work through the user’s manual and you can usually figure out all of the functions your student will need to use. If not, contact technical support.
What other classes require a scientific calculator?
Don’t lose money in the long run by having to purchase another calculator next year. Look ahead to classes that your child will be taking throughout high school and in college. If chemistry, physics, calculus, or statistics are on the horizon, find out the scientific calculator requirements for those classes now. Buy now for functions that will be needed in the future.
If you have a burgeoning research scientist, pharmacy major or medical professional in your home, then perhaps you should consider putting a little more money into a calculator that has the capability of performing complex functions.
Is this calculator approved for use on the SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement Exams, and other standardized tests? The scientific calculators below are all approved for these tests. The graphing calculators may not be. The manufacturer usually includes this information in the specifications. Once you have narrowed your choice to one or two calculators research this point. You don’t want to send your student to take a standardized test with a calculator they can’t use.
Why are the prices so different?
The cost of a scientific calculator is largely dependent on its capabilities and built in memory.
Memory. Calculator memory can be used to store formulas, or problem specific data. A large amount of memory is not necessary for students who are not taking upper level math or science college courses. Consider purchasing a calculator with a minimal amount of memory, rather than a scientific calculator with no memory. This will put your calculator purchase in the $20 – $40 price range, but it will ensure memory is available if needed.
Operations. In addition to basic math operations a good scientific calculator should, at a minimum, perform sine, cosine, tangent, exponential, log, and antilog functions. Look beyond the term “scientific calculator” on the box and check for these functions. Less expensive scientific calculators may only offer the four basic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and some conversion operations, such as metric and temperature conversions. For example, Hewlett Packard’s HP -9s is not adequate for advanced math. The Texas Instruments TI30xa, TI-30x IIS, and TI-30x IIB are sufficient for entry level classes. However, they may lack functions required in advanced classes or college. The Ti-30 line of Texas Instruments calculators all have very similar features. The IIS offers combined solar and battery power. Changes in model number may signify a slight modification from year to year, such as casing.
Graphing. Determine whether graphing functions will be required on your student’s calculator now, or in the future. Graphing is a handy in algebra, trig, chemistry, and earth sciences. It aids student understanding by visualizing concepts. Some schools require graphing functions, others do not. AP students may be more likely to use the graphing function in high school. However, a graphing calculator can be beneficial to any student.
Graphing functions add significantly to the cost of a scientific calculator. If you are unsure whether a graphing calculator will be needed by your student, contact the math or science department chairperson for more information. There is no need to purchase a graphing calculator if the function will never be used.
Hewlett Packard HP 30s Scientific Calculator – This is an excellent, entry level scientific calculator for high school. This calculator enables the use of variables, functions, and has an equation solver function. The HP30s Scientific Calculator will convert decimals to fractions, find sine, cosine, tangent, exponential, natural log and antilog functions. It is easy to use. Data and operations are entered in the same order you solve them on paper. This calculator does not have graphing capabilities.
The HP 30s is $15.99 and can be purchased online from Hewlett Packard. If you or your student has trouble figuring out how to use the calculator you may call Hewlett Packard’s 24 hour a day, seven day a week service and help desk. The HP 30s comes with a one-year limited warranty.
Texas Instruments TI-36x – This is also an excellent calculator for use in both high school and college. In addition to basic computations the TI-36x calculates sine, cosine, ratios, logarithms, exponents, and conversions. It has enough memory to suffice in entry level and advanced classes.
The TI-36x will be useful in trigonometry, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics, and even engineering. This is the calculator of choice for many educators. It has been around for several years. This is not a graphing calculator.
The TI-36x calculator can be purchased used online at Amazon.com starting at $9. A new TI-36x can be purchased for approximately $28.99.
Texas Instruments TI-30xs Multiview – This is a new calculator for use in geometry, math, statistics, algebra, trigonometry, earth science, and biology. This may be the best scientific calculator yet for high school math and science. The TI-30xs shows four lines of data onscreen. Equations are entered and displayed in standard mathematical form, including stacked fractions. It solves equations, contains a formula list, and holds up to eight pending calculations. The calculator stores previous equations for review. The TI-30xs Multiview calculator is designed for purchase by schools for classroom use. It is, however, available for purchase online. The TI-30xs can be purchased for $15.99 from schoolmart.com . Discounts are available for purchases of ten or more in a complete teacher’s kit. The TI-30xs does not have graphing capabilities.
Hewlett Packard HP 33s and HP 35s Scientific Calculators – Both of these calculators offer advanced functions and greater memory storage. They have all the bells and whistles, except graphing. These calculators are powerful enough to be used by upper level college students and medical professionals. The HP35s is designed for use in advanced physics. The HP 33s is $39.99 and is Hewlett Packard’s most popular scientific calculator. The HP35s calculator is $59.99.
Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus – This scientific calculator is the entry level graphing calculator from Texas Instruments. Texas Instruments designs numerous calculators with high school and college students in mind. The TI-83 Plus is adequate for performing algebraic, scientific, and statistic calculations. It contains 160K of operating memory (ROM) and 24K RAM. The TI-83 Plus does not support calculus or pre-calculus functions. This calculator retails for $129.99 and comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Hewlett Packard HP 39gs Scientific Calculator – This is Hewlett Packard’s most basic graphing calculator. Priced from $69.99 to $79.99, this calculator also offers multiple math functions. It is appropriate for both high school and college use. It has 256KB of memory and has the capability of connecting to your home computer.
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus – The TI-84 Plus is an updated version of the TI-83 Plus. The TI-84 Plus is a graphing calculator which supports geometry and chemistry applications. Cabrier ®Jr. is a preloaded geometry application, which is available for the TI-83 Plus, but not preloaded on the 83 model. Vernier Junior ™ allows students to collect data and perform biology and chemistry functions. Study Cards™ is an application that allows the student or teacher to create flash cards for study and test preparation. The TI-84 Plus also has three times the memory and twice the speed of the TI-83 Plus. A USB cable is included to connect you Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus with your home computer. The TI-84 scientific calculator retails for around $116, which includes a 50 free trial subscription to Hotmath.com, a homework assistance site. The TI-84 Plus and TI-83 Plus are 100% compatible keystroke by keystroke. This means if the instructor is teaching students to use the TI-83, they will be able to follow along with the TI-84 without any problem. The TI-84 is widely available in retail stores. In my opinion, this calculator is preferable to the TI-83 Plus.
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Silver Edition – The TI-84 Plus Silver Edition graphing calculator is a souped-up version of the TI-84 Plus. Colorful face plates and slide plate cases make give this calculator a trendy look. There are 14 colors from which to choose. Texas Instruments is offering stickers to customize the calculator slide case for a limited time. The TI-84 Plus Silver Edition offers preloaded SAT and ACT preparation questions, in addition to the TI-84 applications mentioned above. It has 9 times the speed and twice the memory of the TI-83 Plus. The TI-84 Plus edition costs $134.99 and can be purchased online at education.ti.com.
You may be able to buy a used calculator from a student who has recently graduated. Check to be sure the used calculator works properly. It may be more difficult to get technical support on an older calculator, and it is usually no longer under warranty. If you purchase a used calculator make sure the owner’s manual is still with it. The ability to download applications and upload and save data is a relatively recent development older calculators may lack.
When your student leaves their calculator at school and hits a roadblock with homework try an online scientific calculator. Calculator.com and Math.com both offer online scientific calculators. There is no charge for using the calculators on these websites.
“HP 39gs Graphing Calculator – overview and features” http://h10010.www1.hp.com/wwpc/us/en/sm/WF05a/215348-215348-64232-30821-215350-1812520.html
“HP Scientific Calculators” August 9, 2007. http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping/store_access.do?template_type=storefronts&category=calculators&subcat1=scientific&aoid=33465&kw=scientific+calculator&tafcjnef=fy08&ppc=CCp10949624
“HP Scientific Calculators” August 9, 2007, Popularity Sort. http://www.shopping.hp.com/webapp/shopping/can.do?storeName=storefronts&landing=&category=calculators&orderflow=1&a1=Calculator+type&v1=Scientific&sort=top_sellers
“TI-30XS Mutliview Bid Specifications” http://education.ti.com/educationportal/sites/US/productDetail/us_ti30xs_mv.html?bid=5
“TI-30XS Mutliview Features Summary” http://education.ti.com/educationportal/sites/US/productDetail/us_ti30xs_mv.html
“TI-84 Plus Features Summary.” http://education.ti.com/educationportal/sites/US/productDetail/us_ti84p.html
“TI-84 Plus Silver Edition Features Summary.” http://education.ti.com/educationportal/sites/US/productDetail/us_ti84pse.html