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Calculators for High School Math and Beyond

Last Updated on August 11, 2021 by David Callahan

Calculators come in four various forms (as for math)

  1. The 4 function calculator:  A few bucks and NOT what you want. These are: add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
  2. Scientific calculator:  These calculators can do square roots, exponentials, and trig functions (plus many other things) and are great for high school math courses and can get you all the way to calculus – but not as good as the more powerful calculators. A scientific calculator can be found for a little over $10. The TI-30 series is a great example. Most smartphones have this function built-in.  Turning an iPhone sideways will open up all these functions to the basic calculator. Be careful here as the touch screen is easy to punch in (or miss punching) incorrect information.
  3. Graphing calculator:  These do everything a scientific calculator does, plus it allows you to graph functions. Start around $50
  4. CAS (Computer Algebraic Calculator) with graphing: These do all of the above plus computer algebra. In other words, they will solve problems for you. VERY powerful. They will typically be over $100. the TI-89 is a popular example.

Any of the later 3 will work, but my choice for Algebra II with Trig or higher would be the TI-89 or equivalent. Not a ton of money for something you will use for a few years. A student could certainly do well with a TI-30 also, but if they will learn to use it, a TI-89 is a good deal.

The TI-30 Calculator is included in the Everything You Need Jacob’s Elementary Algebra and Jacob’s Geometry packages. This calculator is allowed on the ACT and can be used throughout your student’s academic career and college. You can use the TI-30 with Wolfram Alpha (see online calculators below) for your graphing needs if you don’t want to stick with the TI-30.

Online Calculators

My favorite tool is the wolfram website.  It is far more powerful by far than any of the above. But, you cannot use it on any tests.

Find the answer to Do I let my students use a calculator?” here.