Best Graphing Calculators for Pre-Calculus & SAT/ACT

In summary: HP, TI, Casio, Sharp... in that order from my experience).... get one that has the features you think you will need (don't overbuy)...... ask the store clerk if there is a comprehensive manual available (this makes a huuuuuge difference... even so, no manual will cover everything, so ask questions on usenet).... if you get the calculator and find that you are not using it to its full potential, ask yourself why and how you can improve your use of it. In summary, graphing calculators are essential for pre-calculus and can be used on the SAT and ACT exams. The TI-83, TI-83
  • #1
I just started taking pre-calculus the other week, and I've now realized how useful a graphing calculator is for that class. What graphing calculators are the best? I'm looking for ones that are allowed on the SAT's and ACT's.
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  • #2
  • #3
When I was in high school the TI-83 was the standard. Now I hear the standard is the TI-83Plus or TI-84 Plus. Either will be just fine. Not much difference.
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  • #4
chroot said:
In truth, you don't need a very capable calculator for pre-cal.

And you need an even less capable one for the SAT. The SAT only tests arithmetic (includes basic combinatorics), algebra, and geometry. You might get a question about standard deviation. But there are no trigonometric, exponential, or logarithmic functions on the SAT, nor is there any graphing.

Spizma, if you're going to spend the money on a nice calculator, you might as well get the nicest one that you can afford and that suits your needs, regardless of whether you can use it at the SAT. You can pick up a $10 jalopy of a calculator to get you through that.

I like the HP-48GX myself.
  • #5
The TI-83/84(+)'s are good and can be used on the SAT. If you're thinking about taking AP exams in math or physics you might want to think about the TI-89, it's more expensive but it has a CAS and can be used on the SAT, but you really don't need a calculator for the SAT at all, in fact they sort of slow you down...
  • #6
The absolute best calculator is the TI-89 titanium.
  • #7
For school I use the Ti-89 when I was in calc 1-3 it came in handy for checking homework problems but I wasn't allowed any calculator in any of my math classes and physics exams so it wasn't a big deal what one you had.
  • #8
the TI-83 is still standard I think, however more and more people have the 89. the 89 is nice as it can do symbolic integration and summation things of that nature, but its not a necessity. It would help you in college a lot, simply being able to check your integrals in calc 2, 3, and DE is a plus even though you do have to show some work on your paper.
  • #9
It's all about the Sharp EL-510
  • #10
Not to steal the thread but, I have wondered: do most college courses allow you to use calculators, mr_coffee said that he couldn't on exams, is that pretty standard?
  • #11
Depends on the school, the professor, and the test. In general, your basic scientific calculator is all you need to get through most classes.

I find it humorous that everyone had $150 state-of-the-art graphing calculators in pre-calculus class in high school, yet everyone has $10 basic scientific calculators in second year graduate engineering classes at Stanford.

- Warren
  • #12
I found it very nice not using the calculator. So many people depend on calculators and totally forget everything and are helpless without one.

I did Diff Eq, Calc 1-3,Linear Algebra, Physics Mechanics, E&M, and quantum all without calculators and I did well in all the courses.

Physics was more rough without the calculators because everything was symbolic on the exams and the homeworks did allow calculators but the exams were totally different.Some of my friends from high school took AP calc and when they got to college calc they were screwed because in AP calc they were taught to use the calculator on the exams so they really got lazy.
  • #13
In my experience, it has not been okay to use advanced features of graphing calculators on college tests. When you're doing your homework any tools are okay (though you're generally still expected to show work) but I've found computer programs like Mathematica to be far more capable and useful for graphing or symbolic manipulation. About the only feature that I've really appreciated with the TI-89 is that it has pretty good handling of units and automatic conversion... I haven't found software that works as well for that (though I haven't looked very hard).
  • #14
Thanks guys for giving me some names to look at, and reminding me that I really don't need a super duper calculator that can do everything and then some yet, if ever.
  • #16
qualgorithm said:
About the only feature that I've really appreciated with the TI-89 is that it has pretty good handling of units and automatic conversion... I haven't found software that works as well for that (though I haven't looked very hard).
No software required. Google Calculator can easily convert units and has the physical constants all built in. For example, if you wanted the energy of a 400 nm photon, you can just type h*c/(400 nm) into Google, and it'll spit out the result in SI units. If, however, you wanted this in eV, you can type h*c/(400 nm) in eV. It has a ton of constants built into it as well.
  • #17
It's kinda hard to use Google on an SAT. They frown on such things.

- Warren
  • #18
  • #19
uman said:
The absolute best calculator is the TI-89 titanium.

Dems' fighting words...

Though to be fair a top end Ti or HP will do more than you will ever need, which you prefer is a bit of a religous thing. There was a previous thread about the differences.
There are also PC emulators for both.
  • #20
chroot said:
It's kinda hard to use Google on an SAT.
The way things are going in schools it will be allowed soon.
Then the keyword spammers will start and you will get answer like
Q1, What is the integral of sin(x)
A, Buy viagra
  • #21
I should also mention that there is a sense of pride in owning a really powerful calculator, and, in the grand scheme of things, even a top-of-the-line calculator is not really very expensive. All I can suggest is that if you decide to buy a really fancy model, spend a lot of time with the owner's manual and really learn to use it completely. There's no sense in having a very powerful calculator that you don't really know how to use. Only if you master all its features will you really benefit from owning it.

(I'm speaking from experience -- I know a lot of people who own state-of-the-art calculators but can't do anything beyond basic arithmetic on them.)

- Warren
  • #22
The most expensive calculator is still mathematica + matlab... haha
  • #23
Voyage 200
  • #24
Voyage 200 is identical to a Ti-89 Titanium but you can't use it on most exams (SAT, APs, and probably many foreign exams too).
  • #25
For a simple, nongraphing type the TI-30Xa is great. I think you could drive over the bugger and it would still work. I've got a TI-83 Plus for graphing and it works great, only major differences with others is memory and processor speed.
  • #26
My TI-30 will be by my side forever. I need nothing else in life.
  • #27
binzing: That's false. Ti-89, 92, Voyage, etc. are computer algebra systems while the Ti-83/84 lines are simple graphing calculators.
  • #28
I think the Voyage 2000 is probably the best on the market. Though for pre-calc you don't really need much. I use a Casio fx-115 ES for most of my exams in college. For a $15 calculator, it can do just about everything a graphing calculator can do, besides actually graphing. But if you really want a graphing calculator go for the standard 83-84 TI line. You'll save yourself from headaches because most teachers/professor know how to use them unlike the HP or Casio lines.

Btw anyone know anything about the TI-NSpire CAS & what its all about? Is it just a higher resolution than the 81-89 TI line? Never seen one in actual use yet.
  • #29
In my opinion for pre-calc and below (maybe above I'm not sure as I haven't taken Calculus yet) a TI-83+ or TI-84 will more than suffice.
  • #30
Ti-89 is only really good for checking your answers imo. If you're using it to integrate you're not really learning *how* to integrate.
  • #31
^although on a quantum test where you have to do integrals of the type xsin^2x and others 5 times in a problem having a calculator to help you power through can be very usefulfor anything below calc a graphing calculator is silly, you should know the behavior of a graph and how it transforms from prior knowledge, I used to keep a couple points of parabolic graphs and such memorized so that I could graph them by hand faster.

and if you know 4 points of y=x^2 you can graph any other parabolic functions very quickly
  • #32
That's interesting you say that CPL.Luke, my high school pretty much requires a graphing calculator for what is called Integrated I-III (Algebra + Geometry, not really needed for I-II but for III it is helpful) + Pre-Calc + Calc. For students who can't afford them they can rent them from the school and if they are returned at the end of the year they get their money back. I always figured other schools were pretty much the same way but apparently not. I think maybe it is due to some effort to get technology in the classroom or something.
  • #33
I have refused to use any calculator but the EL-510R for 5 years. I have collected hundreds of them in the fear they will stop being made.
  • #34
I use the ti- 89 titanium. very good calculator, but not necessary for a precalculus course. If you're buying one get this it will come in handy and if I'm not mistaking it can be used on sat and ap calculus, better check though. try to avoid excessive calculator use.
  • #35
My suggestion is, if you have the self-control, have a TI-89, as it will serve you well throughout your years. But you CANNOT solve problems with it: use it to check your work, or for questions that might require a graphing calculator or for 38.2*291.203, but it should otherwise NEVER be part of your first solution. It's a great tool to check, but it becomes a terrible crutch if abused.

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