What Is A Graphing Calculator
A graphing calculator is a more advanced calculator than your simple, old-school calculator. It allows school students or professionals to plot graphs from equations, without having to draw them out by hand or reach for a computer. It also has all the basic functions of a traditional scientific calculator.
Here’s how these calculators work: a student enters an equation and the equation is graphed based on an X and Y-axis. Students can also use multiple equations to see different coordinates available on a graph to help solve math problems. These calculators also come with special features that allow school students to zoom in on their math equations or to set the sizes of the screen so they can get a better view of the graph on their calculator.
What Are Graphing Calculators Used For?
Like every intelligent consumer, you’re doing your research before buying a graphing calculator – we appreciate that!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying it for yourself or perhaps for a child that is going to school – you’ll likely be wondering whether it’s a necessary investment or not. Perhaps a standard scientific calculator would suffice?
Before we start talking about the products out there – we want to make sure it’s the right investment for you or your child.
Features of Graphing Calculators
Proper graphing calculators come with a myriad of features to help students get through classes in the most efficient possible. It’s a great way to take their education to the next level.
As previously mentioned, you’ll have access to a lot of basic, convenient functions such as zooming in on graphs, making size adjustments to see the entire equation, and much more.
The slightly more advanced (and more expensive) models come with all kinds of bells and whistles. There are calculators on the market with beautiful LED screens, comparable to some older smartphones. Others come with fancy overhead projectors, meaning students (or teachers!) may be able to do large scale presentations in front of an entire class.
The list goes on and on but a few other favorites of mine have included things like a calendar (handy for class-specific homework) and other organizational functions such as notes. One of the more impressive feats is that they have extensive memory for storing equations.
Effectively all of them also let you transfer data from one calculator to another which means you’ll be able to work closer with your classmates and teachers.
What else? If you’re a parent you probably don’t want to hear about this, but a few of them do also include games and other entertainment functions.
Why Students Need Graphing Calculators
Your child is not pulling your leg when they tell you they need a graphing calculator. Many upper math classes and a few science classes are now requiring students to have a graphing calculator, which has more functions than a basic calculator.
Depending on the school you’re attending, some teachers may supply students with one, you’ll almost never be able to bring them home which will make homework a nightmare. You’ll also have a different model each time, meaning reconfiguring the entire thing, losing the memory, and so on and so forth.
One thing to keep in mind is that a good graphing calculator will last a student through not only middle school and high school but also the majority of their college or university years. It’s probably a good idea to go the extra mile and invest in the best graphing calculator you can reasonably afford.
Classes That Graphing Calculators Are Used In
In case you’re still wondering whether it’s a worthwhile purchase, we’re here to prove to you that it really is. It’s not the type of tool that you’ll need once a year for one class or one assignment – it’s an essential part of your kit and will help out a lot.
Graphing calculators are commonly used in upper class math courses such as trigonometry. Graphing is a major part of math and teachers are encouraging the use of graphing calculators because it makes teaching and understanding graphs easier on the student, and can help save time. Consider a graphing calculator to be the oar in the math boat, you don’t need it for everything, but it certainly helps you get along faster.
Graphing calculators are breaking out of the math classroom and are being used more and more in science classes, especially at the college level. It is also common for students to take specialized sciences once they pick a major in college. Your child could probably plot some of the graphs by hand, but using a graphing calculator helps make things a little quicker so they can continue on with some of their other work, and progress further in their studies.
As mentioned above – even if your school provides graphing calculators for use in class, students are never allowed to take them home. Effectively you’re being taught how to solve problems using a calculator in class but when it comes to homework you’re going back to the drawing board. There’s no reason to hinder your child’s progress.
Studies have shown if they learn on a graphing calculator, students who don’t have one to do their homework with have shown a decrease in grades.
We don’t have to tell you how important the SATs are to your child’s educational future. The SAT’s are a score that are going to follow your child all the way to the college of their choice and may determine if they are even able to get into college. If your child has been using graphing in school, the odds are good that they are going to have to use graphing on their SAT’s and can be a valuable tool to have with them when they are ready to take the big test. Prepare for success.
Selecting The Best Graphing Calculator For You
When you are going through the process of making the best choice out of what is available on the market today, there are a handful of different things you’ll need to take into consideration, depending on who you’re buying it for and what kind of budget you’re working with
Not only are you going to want to look at the overall capabilities of a specific device, but are also going to want to look at the build quality of the technology and the device itself, how advanced the special features included are, and whether or not this is going to prove to be as close to a “future-proof” device as there can be in our modern world.
If you are purchasing your first ever graphing calculator, things can quickly get out of hand – and it’s likely that you’ll find yourself frustrated and disappointed in the selection process. However, it can be simple and straightforward, especially if you pay close attention to the information, tips, and tricks provided below.
Here are the things we take into consideration when reviewing graphing calculators:
Pure Power Above All Else
Though there can be a bit of a tendency to jump on any graphing calculator that looks great, or is packed with all kinds of “extra features or technologies”, you’re going to want to first look at the actual calculating and graphing power that a solution provides.
Not all graphing calculators are created equally, and in fact, even different manufacturers produce different levels of quality, consistency, and power when it comes to their solutions. This is definitely the area that you want to spend the overwhelming majority of your research on, really focusing on purchasing and choosing the best product for your needs.
Really establish the types of calculations that you are most likely to be doing on this device, and then begin moving forward in your selection process from there. As mentioned above, different devices will be stronger in specific areas than others, which makes selecting the right graphing calculator so critically important.
This is the main factor that will reflect on the longevity of your device so err on the side of caution and go for more power.
Brand Reputation and History
This is another critical distinction that you need to pay attention to, and one that is so often overlooked in an industry like this.
In the world of graphing calculators, Texas Instruments has an almost monopoly on the business – but it’s for a good reason. There graphing calculators are regarded to be the very best of the best, with NASA using the same kinds of technology on a regular basis. If Texas Instruments is good enough for NASA, it’s probably good enough for you. (Elon, if you’re reading this, please send us an email – we have a special one for you!)
At the same time, there are a handful of other manufacturers that are producing high-quality products as well, and you can’t ignore them either.
What you do want to do is avoid any of the “offbrand” or generic graphing calculators that are out there – very frequently at rock-bottom when it comes to features and with cutthroat prices. You’ll end up paying more in the long term because of replacing or repairing them.
Always try to stick to a reliable and reputable brand that you can trust, especially one that has a track record for success. You’re just wasting your time and money if you decide to go in a different direction.
Look for Devices That Are “Future Proof”
Now, obviously this is going to be impossible, but you still need to do your very best to try and get a device that is as close to future proof as humanly possible.
This means moving forward with a device that obviously won’t be obsolete in a year (and hopefully four or five), mostly by purchasing a device that has external memory capabilities, a full keyboard, wireless or Bluetooth capabilities, a backlit display and color screen, and a whole host of other special features that you might be needing in the years to come.
Top 3 Graphing Calculators
If you have a kid in school, it is very likely that they are going to need a graphing calculator in both high school and college. They can be rather expensive to buy so we are helping you get the most from your money by highlighting the top three graphing calculators that have been designed to last, offer the best features, and that is going to help get your child through all his or her difficult math classes and science classes. These calculators have been rated the best based on their features, durability, and lifespan.
Since these calculators are long lasting and expensive, many parents figure it is better to spend more money on the better calculators that will last then the cheap ones that are going to have to be replaced a million times over the course of their child’s educational career.
If you are one of those parents, then you are going to want to buy the best of the best when it comes to calculators. Our top 3 list gives you the best rated graphing calculators on the market on a silver platter so you don’t have to do too much research to find the best choice.
The Best Graphing Calculators in Our Experience
Cheapest good choice
Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator
Texas Instruments Ti-84 Plus Graphing Calculator
Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS Graphing Calculator
Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Review
Although the design of it isn’t quite as modern or elegant when compared to the TI-84, the functionality and power are very similar, handling anything from trigonometry to calculus. The screens are the same size and both come in black and white, ambient light.
One of the main differences you’ll see is that the CPU (central processing unit) is slightly slower, clocking in at 6 MHz instead of the 15 that the TI-84 comes with. It’s also missing a USB slot.
Even though it’s an older model, it comes with upgradeable software and a bunch of preloaded apps such as Vernier EasyData, StudyCards, and much more.
You also have the option to link it up to a TI-84 Plus when needed, e.g. in class with other students.
One of the main benefits of this model is the lower cost. Because it’s been around for so long and it is actually a good product, the aftermarket is huge and finding a second-hand device is super easy and affordable. It also runs on AAA batteries so you’ll be able to replace them with ease. They do last 140 hours plus so its questionable whether you’ll even need to replace them.
What Other People Are Saying
One of the big points that other people reviewing the TI-83 Plus have brought up is that it is a well-recognized device and is more likely to be allowed to be used during not only class but for exams as well. Buy one of the fancy new models and you may get in trouble as they’d also have the capabilities to help you cheat.
As you may have expected, if a product is still popular after almost 20 years of release, a lot of the reviews will be about the durability. Remember those memes about Nokia phones being indestructible? Well, I’m fairly sure that in 30 more years people will have forgotten about those and the TI-83 Plus will take over that joke.
The rest of the reviews you’ll find will likely be college students raving about the super cheap price on this and how it’s a godsend for their budget. Thanks Texas Instruments!
Review Conclusion – Best Cheap Graphing Calculator
It’s slightly less powerful than the TI-84 Plus we’ve covered above but it will definitely do the job and last you a lifetime at the same time.
If you’re on a budget, this is the best cheap graphing calculator to go for.
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Review
The Texas Instrument TI-84 Plus is regarded as one of the best options on the market and it has been in the top position for years already, demonstrating how well they’ve future-proofed this thing.
At the time of writing, this model has already received over 2,500 5-star reviews on Amazon.com alone and it is amongst the best-sellers in the category. This isn’t an accident.
The TI-84 Plus is a fantastic choice if you are taking any math and science class because it displays the graphs you plot on a split screen that allows you to trace the graph, while looking through the table values, so you can see what you are doing and understand what you are doing, rather than simply solving the problem.
It comes with over a dozen preloaded apps to further assist you in your math and science courses, whether in high-school or university.
- Precalculus? Check!
- Engineering? Check!
- Trigonometric and financial functions? Check!
- Interactive geometry? Check!
Honestly, with the help of a professor we could keep this list going for hours!
Keep in mind that this isn’t only for advanced users. If you’re getting this for a high-schooler, they’ll be able to work with data in the same exact format and way they are presented on the board or in textbooks. No more annoying converting or reinventing the wheel.
The calculator itself runs on four AAA batteries (you can switch these out for rechargeable ones) and also has a lithium battery that saves the memory.
Texas Instruments products also come with their “TI Cares Team” and access to a huge library of product tutorials, webinars, exam prep courses, and much more. You’re not just paying for a calculator but a helping hand on the way to graduation.
What Other People Are Saying
Of course, you don’t have to rely on just the information we’re giving you.
Professional reviews are great because you often get a nice comparison of different products, unbiased product information in one place, and our expertise but what really matters is whether it will work for you.
Consumer reviews are from people just like yourself, with the same problems you’re facing, and their experiences in solving these pain points. Let’s dig deeper.
As previously mentioned, the TI-84 comes with a myriad of glowing reviews and one of the main things people love about it, is that it is completely future-proof. A 5-star review by “Diane” mentioned passing this on to future generations!
More experienced users are raving about being able to create their own programs, such as converting Fahrenheit to Celsius as well as the ability to save down these formulas for tests and exams. The amount of advanced functions this thing has is wild and will come super handy for college math.
The only negative reviews we were able to find were from people who had bought second-hand devices and then had issues. Based on the overwhelming amount of positive feedback, it’s safe to assume these people had bad luck and ended up with goods that had been abused by the previous users.
Review Conclusion – Best Graphing Calculator In The World
The wise grandfather of graphing calculators.
The Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus is the best of the best on the market, not only based on our experiences with it but thousands of other consumers who have left feedback online.
It has a ridiculous amount of features for just about any type of user from any background. It’s fast and reliable so you don’t have to worry about it letting you down. The batteries seem to last for a long time (we’ve still not had to change ours!) which means it probably won’t die during your exam. It’s also fairly lightweight, sturdy, has a clean interface, and looks professional!
Most importantly, for a best-in-class product, it comes at a steal.
Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS Review
One of the first things you’ll notice on the Nspire CX CAS when compared to the other popular TI devices is the gigantic 3.2” backlit display that and also comes in a 16-bit color screen and a resolution of 125 DPI. This isn’t just an aesthetic factor either – you’ll be able to color-code your math work, set handy notecards as the backgrounds for the graphs you plot, and much more.
There’s nothing like a color display to upgrade your calculator game.
Similarly to the trend we’ve seen with smartphones, the Nspire NX CAS has also slimmed down and lost some weight while adding on additional features.
In spite of the fancy display, you won’t have to worry about stocking up on batteries as it’ll last you at least two weeks in one go and most importantly… it has a rechargeable battery. Say good-bye to batteries and tiny screwdrivers.
Whether you’re an architect who needs 3D graphing, a college student just looking to visualize data and plots, or a finance-wiz working with spreadsheets – you probably won’t even get through half of the features this calculator offers. The one thing we wish it had was a USB cable, but none of the options on our list do.
What Other People Are Saying
The fact that this calculator is so powerful and has so many advanced functions can also be considered as one of the downsides. One of the main things that school students bring out in their reviews is that the Nspire CX CAS cannot be used during some standardized tests and sometimes even in class to prevent cheating. We’ve checked this recently and currently it’s approved for at least AP tests, SATs, and PSAT exams.
On the more positive side, most people are super impressed by the long battery life and being able to quickly recharge the device when needed. Not only is it more convenient, you’ll also save a bunch of money over the years.
Lastly, there’s a lot of talk about how easy the device is to use compared to legacy calculators. It’s smart enough to figure out what you’re trying to do and won’t let you make sloppy errors – a handy feature for college students with too much coffee and little sleep!
I would easily give this the title MVP if I didn’t know our audience a little better.
One of the main reasons you’ll be buying a good calculator is to get an advantage in tests and unfortunately this one may be banned during the more important ones (except AP tests, SATs, PSATs – you’re good to go on those so make use of those advanced functions.)
However, if you’re just investing in this to make learning easier, have a better experience in class, and get things done faster – this is the right choice. The interface is just beautiful.
Casio FX-9860GII Review
Casio has positioned the FX-9860GII as an “affordable graphing solution” and that’s pretty much what it is.
It comes with a nice big screen at a high resolution so all of your data is easy to see. To complement that, it also has a backlight that can be toggled on or off, either to study in darker environments or save the battery.
Whether it is business and finance, biology and chemistry, or calculus – you won’t be lacking in power and features. Spreadsheets, pie charts, bar graphs, unit conversions, they’ve got it all covered.
One of the cooler features on this model is that it comes with a direct connection to Casio projectors so may be used for presentations or collaborative work.
What Other People Are Saying
A lot of students prefer the Casio over TI because of their natural display instead of the TI’s linear display. This makes it easy to replicate problems presented in textbooks and may help you plow through that stack of homework just a bit faster.
The other big point brought up is the price. It’s not cheaper than the TI-83 Plus second-hand but you are getting a brand new device with an almost comparable feature set. It’s a nice middle-ground.
On the negative side, a few people complained about their professors not knowing about how to use Casio devices, because most textbooks in the US use Texas Instruments in their examples and courses. Depending on where you’re from, this may be worth looking into before making an investment.
In our opinion the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus are better options for the average student but we’d advise going for the Casio if that’s what your professors and textbooks go for.
Other than that, there’s not much else rooting for this one.