Need a fast answer for math or science class?
- If you are just looking for a good calulator but on a budget, go with the TI-30X. This classic is a solid calculator and is under $20.
- If you do not plan to take the ACT buy a TI-89 Titanium or TI-NSpire CX CAS. (These are allowed on the SAT.)
- If you do plan to take the ACT buy a TI-83 Plus or a TI-Inspire CX. (TI-89 or the Nspire CAS are not allowed on the ACT.)
Need more information?
We think the best approach is to buy the best calculator for the long haul – the one that will get you all the way through high school math and science as well as the ACT and/or SAT and into your college math and science courses. Therefore, we recommend a good graphing calculator - such as the TI-83 Plus (made by Texas Instruments) or better. (We are referring to the TI series since they are the most popular calculator at this level. Other companies such as Casio and Hewlett- Packard also make excellent calculators.)
Need even more?
Calculators for high school and college math come in three major varieties.
- Scientific calculators have the basic functions used for algebra and trigonometry. They work well for many students and are cheap ($5-$20). The TI-30 series is a good example. However, courses such as trigonometry, algebra II, and calculus often require graphing functions. So we recommend scientific calculators for algebra 1 only.
- Graphing calculators allow the student to graph equations. The graphing element is powerful since an understanding of what math equations look like graphically can be crucial to understanding the topic of math. Also graphical approaches top math problems can be useful to get a quick answer without having to do a bunch of grueling math, which may be critical for the SAT and ACT exams where you have one minute to answer. The TI-83, TI-84, and TI-89 series are all graphical calculators. Prices are usually in the $90 to $150 range.
- Computer Algebraic Systems (CAS) calculators provide the ability to graph AND the ability to actually solve algebraic (and often calculus) equations. These calculators are very powerful – and as such are NOT allowed on the ACT. (CAS calculators are allowed on the SAT!) CAS calculators provide all the tools needed for the most high powered math courses – including college calculus and engineering. The TI-89 series is perhaps the most popular of these (and my pick) with prices in the $150+ range.
Most students do not know how to use 1/10 of the power in their calculator. I encourage them to get out the manual and play with it. See what it will do. Then keep the manual handy for reference. When you get to the ACT and SAT use all the power you have at your disposal. The exams allow them – so use them to your advantage.
Algebra II with Trig
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