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Calculators Graphing Calculator-worth it?

  1. Feb 21, 2013 #1
    Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    I plan on majoring in either computer engineering or electrical engineering (have yet to take any related classes, so we'll see how long that lasts) and my calculus 1 teacher recommends that we have a ti-83 or 84 (made it through precalc with a B without it), but said that we can NOT use something "high-powered" like the ti-89.

    So I was wondering:
    1) Is it worth the money to get a 83plus or 84plus?
    2) Which one would suffice for engineering? I looked at the comparison chart on TI's website and it says that the more costly calculators are "for engineering"...
    3) Should I get the 84plus silver edition, since it has more RAM?
    4) Do higher math classes require the more higher powered calculators? So should I just wait and spend the money on the "better ones" in the future? I read somewhere that I'm better off just downloading a free graphing program or virtual calculator, but obviously that won't help me on a test.

    Right now I'm using a Casio fx-115ES w/ natural display.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2013 #2
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    I effectively never used a calculator as an undergrad and if I had to go back now and redo it, I still would not get one. If I need to do something numerically, I either program it myself or use mathematica.

    If you need one on an exam, borrow it from someone.
  4. Feb 21, 2013 #3
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    Get the ti82 for five or ten bucks off ebay. Don't waste money on an 83/84 and if you really needed a 90/92's abilities, just use Mathematica.
  5. Feb 21, 2013 #4
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    Graphing calculators are WAAAAAAAAY overrated by TI. Nobody really uses them much. I use my phone or mathematica. The batteries in my 82 died and I haven't bothered replacing them.
  6. Feb 21, 2013 #5
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    This. I have never needed a calculator in university. If I needed to do some messy computation, then I just used the computer.

    Of course, it's better safe than sorry. It doesn't hurt to have a calculator that does basic things like sines and logarithms. But don't waste money on something advanced.
  7. Feb 21, 2013 #6
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    I still occasionally use a calculator, primarily because the interface is more expedient to use than some other method. Depending upon my mood or need, it will be my HP11 or HP49g.

    My first port of call is usually Mathcad on a PC or one of the calculators I have on my Android phone.

    However, from the sound of it, you won't be in a position to use a laptop, smartphone or pda and are barred from using a more advanced calculator. In which case, you might like to see what you can get on eBay or other source of used equipment. I have a small collection of programmable calculators, all obtained via eBay including a couple of Elektronicas from the Ukraine (I only use them for the mental exercise of seeing how I can implement various numerical methods on them), all in good working order and quite cheap.

    What kind of problems will you need the calculator for? Which of the Ti-83/84 capabilities are you actually likely to need? Does it need to graph (I'm guessing "yes" is the answer to that!)?
  8. Feb 21, 2013 #7
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    I would not get one unless it was required for tests. Otherwise, as others mentioned, your PC should be more than sufficient! If you have a tablet, then you can always download calculator and graphing apps for that (including TI-8x emulators), which is portable and far more functional.
  9. Feb 21, 2013 #8


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    Gold Member

    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    Hand-held calculators are useless. If I want to calculate something, I use calculator software on a computer. I haven't owned a hand-held calculator in 30 years, and I've never felt that I was lacking a useful tool.
  10. Feb 22, 2013 #9
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    To you, maybe. I still find the dedicated interface and separation from the computer to be useful.

    I work for a comms engineering company and it is a fact that the majority of the couple of hundred people on my floor (systems engineers, support engineers and programme managment (project management, finance, commercial, etc, age range 18 to 66)) have calculators on their desk and use them despite having multi-screen PCs available. Calculators have the advantages of not occupying the same physical screen space (so the visibility and overlap problems don't occur), of having a tactile-feedback, dedicated GUI and, like books or pdas/smartphones, having greater freedom in positioning. The majority of people use their calculators for checking PC results (eg, I've picked up a few Excel worksheet errors) and for generating simple order of magnitude estimates / one-off calculations - in the latter case, it is often easier to use the calculator than to fire up an app and jiggle around with the mouse, particularly if, say, the results are intended for log book use, lab use or in meetings, where use of a PC is either not an option or is physically inconvenient or imposes a poor workflow (eg, looking up to the PC, poking around with the mouse, looking down and refinding place in notebook as opposed to putting the calculator by the side of the notebook and tapping the keys with minimal hand, head & eye movement). Improvements in touch-screen systems may well erode these advantages in the future, but I suspect the dedicated nature of the calculator will keep it fixed on many people's desks for a few more years to come.
  11. Feb 22, 2013 #10


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    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    Not relevant to the OP, but I think a lot of US high school students use them. The TI-83/84s are also among the calculators allowed on the SAT and some AP tests. (I'm not saying that I approve the use of calculators on those tests.)
  12. Feb 22, 2013 #11
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    I dont care what anyone says I love my TI-89. Its much more useful for statistics and symbolic mathematics than MATLAB. Very good tool for checking work without requiring a computer. Plus, you can hook it up to your PC if need be.
  13. Feb 22, 2013 #12
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    MATLAB's primary use is not symbolic math, so why make the comparison?
  14. Feb 22, 2013 #13
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    But it does have a symbolic toolbox.
  15. Feb 22, 2013 #14
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    A calculator is not supposed to be a PC, so why make a comparison?
  16. Feb 22, 2013 #15
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    I am a self-confessed calculator junkie, but I would say no. Don't get a high-powered calculator for general university work - unless your calculus exams allow only that one calculator and you will be at a disadvantage without it. Even then, I would choose another course that emphasizes understanding rather than number crunching, if possible.

    As others have said:

    1) A computer can do more. A good free CAS like wxMaxima will serve you better in the long run. Alternatively, learning something like Sympy will give you serious mathematical programming tools.


    2) There are good emulators for calculators on smartphones. I have a TI-89 and an HP-48 on my android phone. They work flawlessly and I barely use them.


    However, I do have a soft spot for my (physical) HP-50g. The interface for calculators sometimes offers something that a computer doesn't. The advantage isn't big and it is only useful for people who want to put the time into it. However, with the alternatives that are available, it doesn't make any sense to buy a $100+ calculator.

    The upshot: Use your (very good) Casio. It does 99.9999% of everything a calculator should need to do. Ironically, I use the same calculator for anything I need to do quickly at my desk, despite having monster firepower available in multiple other devices.
  17. Feb 23, 2013 #16
    Re: Graphing Calculator---worth it?

    Hmm.. Ok. Thank you all for your input! I think im just gonna hold off for now, unless I find a new one for like $30 somewhere (yea right).
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