Is a Graphing Calculator Necessary for Engineering Studies?

In summary, calculators are useful for when you need to do a quick calculation and don't want to pull out your computer. They're not as versatile or powerful as computers, but they're still useful.
  • #1
musiclover55
12
0
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!
 
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  • #2


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.
 
  • #3


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.
 
  • #4


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.
 
  • #5


Jorriss said:
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.

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.
 
  • #6


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!)?
 
  • #7


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.
 
  • #8


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.
 
  • #9


bcrowell said:
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.
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.
 
  • #10


TomServo said:
Graphing calculators are WAAAAAAAAY overrated by TI. Nobody really uses them much.
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.)
 
  • #11


I don't 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.
 
  • #12


MATLAB's primary use is not symbolic math, so why make the comparison?
 
  • #13


TomServo said:
MATLAB's primary use is not symbolic math, so why make the comparison?
But it does have a symbolic toolbox.
 
  • #14


MATLAB's primary use is not symbolic math, so why make the comparison?

A calculator is not supposed to be a PC, so why make a comparison?
 
  • #15


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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxima_CAS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sympy

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.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Bisha.TI89Emu
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.ab.x48

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.
 
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  • #16


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

Related to Is a Graphing Calculator Necessary for Engineering Studies?

1. Is a graphing calculator really worth the investment?

It depends on your academic or professional needs. If you are a student or professional in fields such as mathematics, engineering, or science, a graphing calculator can be a valuable tool for solving complex equations and visualizing data.

2. Are graphing calculators allowed on standardized tests?

It varies depending on the test and the rules set by the testing organization. For example, graphing calculators are allowed on the ACT and SAT, but not on the GRE. It is always best to check with the testing organization beforehand to ensure you are following the rules.

3. Can I use a graphing calculator in place of a regular calculator?

Yes, most graphing calculators have the same basic functions as regular calculators, so they can be used for everyday calculations as well.

4. Are there any alternatives to buying a graphing calculator?

Yes, there are graphing calculator apps available for smartphones and tablets. These can be a more affordable option, but they may not have all the features and functionality of a physical graphing calculator.

5. Do I need to know how to use a graphing calculator if I have a computer or online graphing tool?

It can be beneficial to know how to use a graphing calculator even if you have access to other tools. Graphing calculators are portable and can be used in various settings, while computers and online tools may not always be available. Additionally, knowing how to use a graphing calculator can be helpful for understanding and utilizing mathematical concepts in a more hands-on way.

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