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Homework Help: Calculators to use?

  1. Jul 28, 2008 #1
    I know this isn't exactly a homework question, and it may be in the wrong section, but I've looked all over the forums and could not find a better place for it, so I apologize if this is in the wrong section.

    I'm looking into buying a new calculator for my AP Physics class this fall and found what seem to be two promising products.

    The first is the TI-89 Titanium, which seems to be a powerful graphing calculator with pre-installed applications for AP Physics, and I thought it looked great.

    However, I then found the TI-Nspire, which seems to be newer and have more functionality. Apparently the Nspire has more memory, and all sorts of things that make it seem more like a computer.

    I thought the Nspire looked great and all, but the Texas Instruments website does not list the applications for it, and so I do not know if it has the power I want for advanced physics and such.

    So my basic question is, what which calculator would Physics Forums suggest for use in an advanced physics course (and future college science and math courses)?

    Thank you for your help and again I apologize if this is in the wrong section or has already been posted.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2008 #2


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    Generally three opinions around here
    Texas ti89
    Don't bother - just get a regular scientific calculator and use Mathcad/Maple/Mathematica on your PC for anything else.

    You don't really need a fancy calcualtor, and you probably want to check what is allowed in your exams.
  4. Jul 28, 2008 #3


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    IMO I wouldn't buy a graphing calculator for a few reasons:
    - Very expensive
    - May make you lazy and may prevent you from learning curve sketching techniques
    - You won't be allowed to use them on exams most likely
    - Far less powerful than programs such as Maple or Mathematica
    - There is plenty of free curve sketching programs available on the internet
  5. Jul 29, 2008 #4
    The TINspire CAS handheld has all the functionality of the TI-89. TI has a physics site where they are building activities for the physics classroom. tiphysics.com. I have been using the TINpsire CAS this last year teaching my chemistry and physic classes. It allows you the functionality of Mathcad/Derive/Mathematica in your hand.

  6. Jul 29, 2008 #5
    Really, most of math professors I had did not seem to realize that high-end graphing calculators have been Mathematica-light computers for the past eight years. I think they believe that they just work like scientific calculators with graphing applications.

    In fact, the only math teacher I had which specifically banned calculators with CAS was my high school calculus teacher. High School teachers seem to be much more knowledgeable about what calculators are capable of, because they tend to use them in their curriculum, whereas university math professors tend to use good old pencil and paper, Mathematica, and the occasional scientific calculator when they want a numeric answer.

    But to answer the original question, I think the Tinspire is based on the TI-84 and the Tinsipre CAS is based on the TI-89. The HP-50 seems a little harder to use, but with better hardware and math and physics capabilities out of the box. I think that they are all allowed on standardized tests, though not necessarily in math class (Calculus I is heavy on graph sketching, so graphing calculators are often banned from tests).
  7. Jul 29, 2008 #6


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    Guilty - I hadn't realised the TI-CAS was quite so advanced.
    When you actaully work in physics/engineering you usually get by with a 20year old HP
  8. Aug 5, 2008 #7
    Iv got a TI-89(non-titanium) that I use on a daily basis at work and it serves me well. There are some things that are just does faster on the calculator than in Matlab, for example basic algebra. Some things that would take me hours to do by hand this thing does 5 minutes. Although I gotta say that Nspire looks pretty sweet. Which ever one you get make sure you get it off ebay or something. $120 for a calculator is ridiculous. And the 3D graphing on the TI-89 is not that great. Its good for tracing points but thats about it.
  9. Aug 5, 2008 #8
    i have a TI-84 plus. i bought it for around 130 euros. very handy to check for functions and check graphs
  10. Aug 5, 2008 #9
    "Don't bother - just get a regular scientific calculator and use Mathcad/Maple/Mathematica on your PC for anything else."

    I agree with this ^^ You dont need a fancy calculator at all.

    I do have the HP 50G, but that is mostly a toy. Its not really useful for real course work or research.
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