Some Thoughts on Buying
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on this web site reflect the writer's subjective opinion and observations. What
appears here should be considered only as another source
of information. The writer is not endorsing any particular brand or model of
the calculators mentioned or any particular store or shop. The writer does not
warrant the accuracy of this information. Any calculator mentioned may not be a
representative sample of what is on the market, and the manufacturers may change
their products or specifications without my knowing about it.
The following is an attempt to give some help to those who are unfamiliar
with the capabilities of graphing calculators and how their capabilities relate
to courses of study. It is not intended as definitive advice on what
a particular student should buy. I
would appreciate knowing of any disagreements you have with me. Send me an
e-mail at the address listed elsewhere.
Bottom Line: Talk with the teachers of the classes
you're going to be taking. Buy the calculator that they're going to be
using in their instructions if you can afford it and don't already have another
Guidelines: If the
teachers don't use calculators, or if you're enrolled in a distance course or
some other situation prevents your consulting the teachers, here are some
guidelines. Please realize that it's ultimately up to you to make the
decision based on what information you collect. This is only one source of
information. So, the following is a set of guidelines based on the level
of math you might be taking.
General Discussion: If you're a real math and calculator geek and money
is not a problem, you'd probably be happier with the TI-89 Titanium. If you are
mainly interested in a tool to do your math in the most efficient way, then a
TI-83 Plus would be entirely sufficient for courses that don't include functions
of more than one variable. That unusually comes in second semester calculus. The
TI-83 Plus is simple to use and fairly versatile. The best buy on that
calculator is to buy a used one. The TI-84 is replacing the TI-83 Plus in
I would point out that it is possible to graph functions of more
than one variable on a TI-83 Plus, but you have to hold all but one variable
constant. For example, if you want to graph e^-(x² +y²), you could replace y²
with A, and supply constant values of A from the home screen to get a family of
curves. I understand that TI is developing a set of applications that will give
the TI-83 Plus some of the capability of the TI-89. If you buy the TI-83 Plus, you get the GraphLink
or Connect software that allows you to download applications
from the Internet to your calculator.
For finding antiderivatives, partial fractions, vectors
and other somewhat more sophisticated math operations, I would suggest a TI-89,
or if you have the money a TI-89 Titanium. The TI-89 can be a
little intimidating to some students. I happen to think that the TI-89 Titanium
is somewhat simpler. It does, however, cost more. I have a User Guide for
the TI-89 Titanium on this Website that might simplify using the TI-89 Titanium
And Now: The following is an attempt to give some
idea of what calculator might be needed for a particular set of courses of
High School: I don't have
contact with high school students, so I don't have a good feel for their needs.
Generally, I would think that if you're not planning to take Pre-calculus
or AP Calculus, a good scientific calculator would be entirely satisfactory.
(See the Scientific Calculator link on the HOT STUFF Link on the home page.) But be sure to check with some of the teachers to see if they
might use graphing calculators for doing graphs is Algebra II.
Incidentally, scientific calculators are sometimes more efficient and easier to
use than graphing calculators.
If you plan to take Pre-calculus or AP Calculus,
and especially if you're planning to major in engineering, science, or math in
college; then you probably should buy a graphing calculator if the cost is not a
primary consideration with you. A TI-83Plus or a Casio Cfx-9850GB would be sufficient,
but I would be remiss if I didn't say that the TI-83Plus or one of the TI-84
Plus models is more often the
choice among college students. See the information of the TI-84 Plus
series at the end of this topic. Be cautious about buying a TI-86 or TI-89.
Although these are excellent for those who have a more than average interest in
math, many students never really learn to use these calculators with anything
like their potential.
Some schools are migrating to the TI-84 Plus regular or
Silver Edition. The major difference between these calculators and the
TI-83 Plus is that the newer versions are faster and have more memory, and have
more applications loaded. Frankly, you might not notice the speed unless
you're a gamer or running some long programs. But you should bear in mind
that the TI-83 Plus probably won't be produced much longer. In fact, it
may be out of production when you read this. The TI-84 Plus series also have
more applications loaded, but you can download some of these
free for the TI-83 Plus. There are also a couple of new statistics functions is the TI-84
Plus Silver Edition. These are as follows: Manual Fit under the STAT>Calc
menu; X2 GOF-Test (X 2 means Chi-squared); and InvT under
DISTR. . If you're into games or you plan to use your calculator for
many years, and if you're not on a tight budget, you might want to consider
Developmental Math: For
Basic Math and Beginning Algebra, Elementary Algebra, or whatever your school
calls it, you can get by with a good scientific calculator. Don't buy one
of those six-or eight-function calculators with a one-line display. They're not worth taking home. Don't pay more than $14.95 if you're on a tight budget.
(Again, see the HOT STUFF link on the home page for more information on buying a scientific
For Intermediate Algebra, you may need a graphing
calculator depending on whether your school uses one. In any case, it
would be nice to have one to check your answers. Make your decision based on your
major as listed in the categories below.
Elementary School Teacher, Nursing, Liberal Arts,
Communications: I'm assuming you're going to take
College Algebra and either Elementary Calculus or something like Foundations of
Mathematics or Finite Math. Unless you're some kind of calculator guru,
don't buy one of the heavy hitters like a TI-89. Chances are you'll never
learn how to use most its power. Instead, buy a TI-83 Plus or a Casio CFX-9850GB Plus.
You can get by with a TI-82 if you'll enter my program for doing rref and ref on
augmented matrices and, for finite math, the program for doing the simplex
method. Otherwise you're going to be left out when you get to
doing augmented matrices or simplex. The Casio has a program that you'll need to
activate for doing rref, or you could use my program for rrefref for the Casio.
That'll give you both ref and rref. If your teacher is one of those who
gives you a lot of augmented matrix work to do by hand, you might find my matrix
row operations program helpful for both the TI and the Casio.
Suppose you absolutely can't afford any graphing calculator.
Hang in there and get you a good scientific for no more than $17.95. Go to
the Tutoring Lab, Learning Center, Academic Assistance Center or whatever your
school (community colleges) calls it and use their calculator to do your
homework. They may even have one you can check out and take to do tests.
You might also ask your professor about one of the cheaper Casios:
FX-7400G Plus or FX-9750 Plus. I have an older FX-9750, and I worked some
with an older FX-7400, but I am not familiar enough with the newer versions of
these calculator to give advice on them. Read my notes below on the
Durabrand that has recently appeared at Wal-Mart for $19.95. Finally,
though I'm not endorsing the morality of pawn shops, you can get some good buys
on used Graphing Calculators there. I bought a TI-83 Plus for $30 and a
TI-89 Titanium for $40 including the obscene 9.25% sales tax we have here.
Economics and Heavy Business Courses:
I'm assuming you'll take Calculus I and Finite Mathematics with some other
financial courses. The finite math may be heavy in linear
programming and the Simplex method. Be sure to find out if your teacher
uses one of those special financial calculators in your class. Otherwise,
you can use a TI-83 Plus or a Casio CFX-9850GB Plus. The Casio has a
program called LINPROG that needs to be activated for doing simplex. You can use my program
called LINPRG2 for the TI-83 Plus to do the Simplex method. Both of these
calculators have functions for doing amortization, different types of interest,
and other financial functions.
Chemistry: You guys probably know what you
need. If you're going to take Calc I and II and no differential equations
you probably could get by with a TI-83 Plus, TI-84, or a Casio CFX-9850GB Plus.
If you're going to take higher math, buy one of the heavy hitters like a TI-89
or TI-89 Titanium.
Electrical Engineers & Physicists: You
guys know what you need. If you don't, talk with your professors. My
inclination: Don't buy one of the simpler graphing calculators. Buy
one a TI-89 Titanium. You need the best tools you can get.
Where to buy: I'm not going to tell you
where to buy; I'm going to tell you some places they're available.
Wal-Mart, Best Buys, Home Depot, Office Depot, Target (I believe Target still
has them.), and others that may be specific to your area. If you want to
save money, watch the advertising inserts to your local newspaper about the time
the fall semester starts. Many stores have significant savings at that
time. Call around and see who has the best price, and don't neglect to
call the office supply stores such as Home Depot, Office Max, and Staples.
Now, here's something that may seem a little weird to you,
but it works for many of the students who come to me and are pressed for money.
I send them to pawn shops. Many pawn shops in this area have used TI-83
Plus calculators for $30 to $43 dollars. I tell the students to make
the pawn shop dealer agree to take the calculator back for a couple days or so,
until they come in and have me check it out. You might also try to bargain
a little by telling the dealer that the TI-83 Plus is now two versions out of
date. Now, let me give you a little
hint on getting a calculator from the pawn shop: Turn the calculator on;
press 2nd, MEM, ENTER. In the middle of the screen, right below the
TI-83Plus will be an entry such as 1.19. This is the version of the
operating system and may tell you indirectly how old the calculator is.
(I say "may" because someone like me may have upgraded the operating system.) The
higher the number, the newer, with 1.19 being the highest as of 6/1/08.
If the pawn shop has several calculators, try them all, and get the one with the
latest version unless you have to pay considerably more. Try to get one with
1.15 or higher. If you must settle for a lower number, tell the dealer
that it's old and he should give you a price break on it. If you have a
friend with Connect or GraphLink installed, you can upgrade the operating
Now, how about the Durabrand calculator that has recently
appeared at Wal-Mart for $19.95? Here's what little preliminary
information I have on it. (Please read the DISCLAIMER at the start of
* Has a 50-key keyboard that appears to
be fairly well arranged except, possibly for the SHIFT key.
* Has fraction and Ans keys.
* Has sufficient memories for most any purpose -
* Has about any of the standard algebraic and
trig functions that you would want - including one- and two-variable
* Algebraic entry of formulas.
* Easily obtained battery - CR2032. This is the
same as the battery used for the memory of some other calculators.
* Has some limited programming ability.
* The display for the graph is very small, 35 x
23 pixels. The full-screen display on the TI-83 Plus is 62 x 94 and
screen G-T display is 50 x 46.
* As far as I can see, there is no equivalent of the ENTRY
function on the TI-83 Plus. This is very useful when you need to use
a long expression and only edit a number or
* Programming is limited to 400 steps divided among ten
pre-designated programs. Gamers, forget about it.
SUMMARY OF DURABRAND CALC:
Don't let the small number of
cons lead you to believe this is equivalent to the TI-83 Plus or the Casio
CFX-9850 series. This is more on the order of the old Casio 7000G Graphic
calculator. This is merely my opinion, but if you want a sophisticated
graphing calculator, I'd try to come up with 15 to
20 dollars more money and look hard for a used TI-83 Plus or equivalent.
Activation Date: 8/30/09