19 votes

Is the era of the $100+ graphing calculator coming to an end?

14 comments

  1. [4]
    Akir
    Link
    Amusingly enough, the only calculator I have been required to buy so far was a ~$10 scientific calculator, and that was specifically because the calculator I had bought for my own entertainment...

    Amusingly enough, the only calculator I have been required to buy so far was a ~$10 scientific calculator, and that was specifically because the calculator I had bought for my own entertainment was too advanced and the professor didn't want us to cheat with them.

    I'm going to go with an unpopular opinion; I think that calculators are much better tools to learn math than they are given credit for. Calculators don't just run equations; they let you explore math. A good calculator will help you understand how to break apart equations in every way, weather it's to reinforce order of operations or how to procedural work through the more complex examples by turning them into programs. They also allow you to explore scientific equations so you can understand how exactly these figures relate to each other.

    I do think that the old TI calculators really need to be retired, though. TI, HP, and Casio all have their own 'next generation' calculators that offer so many more features that make them useful even after you graduate. If I were to choose just one calculator as a standard for students learning math, I would choose the NumWorks. It's minimal, so it won't provide any distractions; it's programmable with Python, giving a better foundation for people who are going to learn programming; it's got a test mode with an LED to prove it's on so students can't cheat. Best of all, it's open source in both hardware and software, and it's likely to get a lot of continuing support. Sure it's expensive right now (though it's still less than the competition), but the economy of scale could easily fix that.

    13 votes
    1. vivaria
      Link Parent
      FWIW, it's MicroPython 1.3.4, and you've only got access to a handful of modules. They only let you store 8 scripts at a time, too. Still, they include a simulation of the calculator on the...

      programmable with Python

      FWIW, it's MicroPython 1.3.4, and you've only got access to a handful of modules. They only let you store 8 scripts at a time, too. Still, they include a simulation of the calculator on the website which lets you run the sample scripts! Digging into mandlebrot.py was so rad. Here's mandlebrot(100).

      6 votes
    2. Elronnd
      Link Parent
      Tools like wolfram alpha or jupyter notebook do a much better job of letting you explore math, I feel.

      Tools like wolfram alpha or jupyter notebook do a much better job of letting you explore math, I feel.

      5 votes
    3. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      Personal testimonial here. When I was in 2nd grade my teacher had some kind of vendetta against me and put me in the remedial track for math and English (presumably, because foreign). The remedial...

      I'm going to go with an unpopular opinion; I think that calculators are much better tools to learn math than they are given credit for. Calculators don't just run equations; they let you explore math.

      Personal testimonial here. When I was in 2nd grade my teacher had some kind of vendetta against me and put me in the remedial track for math and English (presumably, because foreign). The remedial English teachers were able to figure out right away that I not only had native fluency in the language, but was reading and speaking at way beyond my age level so they put me in the advanced classes within a week.

      Math was harder though. The way math education at that level is done is so rote that you can't really surprise people with your arithmetic skills. You can only do as well as the problem sets they give you and even if you score perfectly every time you are, at best, excellent with the remedial content. But since I was so bored all the time, I occupied myself by playing around with my scientific calculator since that's all I had on hand. Based on how it worked I basically taught myself stuff by seeing the right answer and puzzling out how that can be.

      So one day the teacher had us play a game where we had to roll some dice and add or subtract one of the die rolls from another. She messed up somehow and accidentally had me needing to subtract a larger number from a smaller one and before she could reverse the order for me to make it easier I responded "-3" (or whatever it was). She was surprised and asked how I knew this and I explained that I basically figured out how negative numbers worked by playing with the calculator. She dug a little deeper and realized that I had basically drilled myself through the multiplication tables and learned long-division as well (by skipping ahead in the practice exercises book). That was when she realized that I did not belong in remedial math.

      In hindsight it's shocking though. If I was just an average student that one teacher's bullshit would have put me on a "dummy" track for life where I would have been bored and unchallenged and probably gotten into a bunch of trouble as a result. I needed to be an exceptional student to actually have it register that I needed to be in advanced classes, and it only happened because the remedial education teachers took the time to notice. Oh. . . and my parents got me a shitty scientific calculator at a garage sale, which is the reason it all happened.

      4 votes
  2. [2]
    moocow1452
    Link
    My brother just got a TI84 for taking exams for his college course, and the recommended alternative was a TI83, so I'm assuming that it's going to be a bit of an impasse to take anything other...

    My brother just got a TI84 for taking exams for his college course, and the recommended alternative was a TI83, so I'm assuming that it's going to be a bit of an impasse to take anything other than a certified and dedicated piece of hardware into an exam for a while yet.

    5 votes
    1. hungariantoast
      Link Parent
      You should tell him to check with the school's testing center if they hand out calculators for exams. I take my math classes online, but some tests require in-person testing at the school's...

      You should tell him to check with the school's testing center if they hand out calculators for exams.

      I take my math classes online, but some tests require in-person testing at the school's dedicated "testing center", where they provide calculators for students to use during the test in exchange for their ID.

      So, if he can still return the calculator he bought, I'd totally tell him to check if he can take his tests at a testing center and if that testing center lends out calculators.

      6 votes
  3. [6]
    sublime_aenima
    Link
    I own a TI-82, 84 and 86. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the difference between them other than design. I don’t use any of them anymore and instead opt for the calculator on my phone, Excel or...

    I own a TI-82, 84 and 86. I honestly couldn’t tell you what the difference between them other than design. I don’t use any of them anymore and instead opt for the calculator on my phone, Excel or Matlab depending on what I’m doing at the moment. I gave my daughter the 84 for her Algebra class a couple years ago, because that was the one she was required to have
    Op. This year my daughter informed me she needed a TI-36 (non-graphing scientific) in addition to the 84 so that she could have a scientific calculator for tests. It’s ridiculous how much TI has worked their way into the schools.

    4 votes
    1. [4]
      vivaria
      Link Parent
      Do you live in the US? Asking because, at my uni in Canada, we're required to have non-graphing scientific calculators, but there's no requirement for model. My Casio fx-991EX is my baaaaaby and I...

      Do you live in the US?

      Asking because, at my uni in Canada, we're required to have non-graphing scientific calculators, but there's no requirement for model. My Casio fx-991EX is my baaaaaby and I love it to death.

      5 votes
      1. sublime_aenima
        Link Parent
        Yes. The non graphing calculator model was strongly recommended, but not required. She probably could have gotten a cheaper one, but she wanted the same one all her friends were getting and the...

        Yes. The non graphing calculator model was strongly recommended, but not required. She probably could have gotten a cheaper one, but she wanted the same one all her friends were getting and the one the teacher was using for examples

        2 votes
      2. [2]
        Akir
        Link Parent
        I bought that model, too! It's so nice, and it practically is a graphing calculator - it does linear functions and it even generates QR codes so you can combine them with a phone to get a graph!...

        I bought that model, too! It's so nice, and it practically is a graphing calculator - it does linear functions and it even generates QR codes so you can combine them with a phone to get a graph! It's so well designed and functional that it's shocking how inexpensive it is.

        2 votes
        1. vivaria
          Link Parent
          It makes me shudder to think how many times I used to make a dumb errors doing complex arithmetic by hand, or trying to solve simultaneous equations by hand. The fact that it does it all, and is...

          It makes me shudder to think how many times I used to make a dumb errors doing complex arithmetic by hand, or trying to solve simultaneous equations by hand. The fact that it does it all, and is allowable in exams (where time pressure is a thing)... I can't help but spread the gospel to all the wee bab first years at my uni.

          Plus, like, the screen! It's such a dumb aesthetic thing, but the numbers are so pretty.

          2 votes
    2. userexec
      Link Parent
      The good news with the 30-36 is you can find a dump truck full of them at nearly any thrift store, so you probably won't have to shell out for one of those. Pick a day and hit every thrift store...

      The good news with the 30-36 is you can find a dump truck full of them at nearly any thrift store, so you probably won't have to shell out for one of those. Pick a day and hit every thrift store around and you'll almost certainly find one (or ten). I sort of collect thrift store TI calculators like I'm trying to complete a pokedex. The BAIIPlus Professional is sort of my white whale.

      2 votes
  4. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    Brazil: unless you’re in a expensive private or elite school, things like calculators and programming are nothing but a distant dream. Every calculus on our equivalent to the SATs and similar...

    Brazil: unless you’re in a expensive private or elite school, things like calculators and programming are nothing but a distant dream.

    Every calculus on our equivalent to the SATs and similar selections must be done by hand. And those are a not easy calculations.

    Abacus are too high tech for us too.

    We also write with charcoal instead of pencils (/jk).

    Calculators are frequently required in in STEM courses though.

    1 vote
  5. userexec
    Link
    I learned programming by being totally fascinated with TI-BASIC on my TI-83+ in high school. I'm terrible at math but got the math student of the year award in my senior year and aced my ACT math....

    I learned programming by being totally fascinated with TI-BASIC on my TI-83+ in high school. I'm terrible at math but got the math student of the year award in my senior year and aced my ACT math. Trouble was, I only won that award because I programmed everything the teacher said during lessons so it would show "my" work and the answer, and for the ACT I programmed in every possible question type into a wallet application with a year's worth of fake transaction records and a secret ACT math menu accessed by spending $69.69. Didn't actually have to use the cheat program because I remembered (very temporarily) what I'd programmed, but it was there the whole time. There's a precious place in my heart for those overpriced calculators. I learned an absolute ton from those things, but very little of it was math.