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What the best calculator is

  1. Sep 29, 2004 #1

    Zurtex

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    I was wondering what the best calculator to get would be?

    I've just started a 4 years masters in mathematics and I was hoping to get something that would get me through the whole 4 years (scientific got me through 5 years of high school and a basic graphics calc got me through 2 years of college). There seem to be quite a few top calculators and I have no idea why one offering x type of programs would be any better than another offering y type of programs.
     
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  3. Sep 29, 2004 #2

    Integral

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    Don't bother, sell your calculator, you will not need one in a math major.

    You are beyond arithemtic.
     
  4. Sep 29, 2004 #3

    Zurtex

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    Well I like to keep a calculator to check my workings, at the moment I can use it to make sure my matrix calculations are correct. But I fear in a years time whatever mathematics I'll be doing will be beyond the capabilities of my present calculator (assuming we start to pick up any reasonable pace and I can stay awake in lectures).
     
  5. Sep 29, 2004 #4
    don't rely on calculators too much though
     
  6. Sep 29, 2004 #5

    matt grime

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    you're doing an MMath, drop the calculator. they're probably banned in the exams and there are no courses where you need to use them. if a course is computational at all it will usually require you to use matlab or something similar. I started out as an undergrad mathematician some 8 years ago, and am finishing my doctorate now, and i've not had any need to use a calculator in that period (except to do expenses claims and work out average marks for my students).
     
  7. Sep 29, 2004 #6

    Zurtex

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    Well if you are really so sure, suppose it saves me £200 or however much they cost which kind of works out as I've just randomly spent £190 on a Japanese course.

    I already have the only calculator that is allowed in the exams but I was more looking at something geared towards study (and no I don't rely on them to work things out I just use them as an approximation to check my answers).

    Oh well never mind, thanks for your advice.
     
  8. Sep 29, 2004 #7

    matt grime

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    In a masters level course there will be very few courses which actually have answers that need any numerical checks, though surely asking the people organizing your course than people who don't even know which univeristy you're at would be a safer course of action.
     
  9. Sep 29, 2004 #8
    I agree. As a math major you should be able to do it all by hand anyway.
     
  10. Sep 30, 2004 #9
    calculators are useful. it would be ridiculous to graph by hand everything you wanted to glance at, finding the 1st and 2nd derivatives, inflection points, etc. you'd never get anything done (relative to today's pace).
    i own a ti-86, which is a fine all around calc. add things up, write programs if you are doing some especially repetitious.
    you could get maple, that's pretty powerful.
    like everyone said though, calcs are kind of useless for anything important. computers are only good for doing something similar over and over and over again
     
  11. Oct 1, 2004 #10

    matt grime

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    From what I recall, Zurtex is doing his degree in the UK. In a masters course, a good one, from say Cambridge (not that they offer one), Oxford, Warwick, Imperial, or any of the Russell Group, then he will never be asked a question that requires a calculator. (Sweeping and probably false statement.) And he will almost certainly never be asked to graph anything that isn't obvious. UK universities don't teach Calc or precalc as I imagine you're thinking (the ti-86 thing implies to me you're in the US), that's taught before you go to university in single variable form, and multivariable stuff is theoretical; it isn't engineering or physics. you just don't need a calculator
     
  12. Oct 1, 2004 #11

    shmoe

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    I was given an hp-48G at the start of my university math career. I think I used it to check a determinant or matrix inverse once or twice as a novelty, but that's it. The probability you've messed up your answer grows with the size of the matrix. The time it takes to enter a matrix into a calculator grows at least as fast, so I just didn't find it practical. Honestly, the most used feature on this calc was the clock.

    If you want something for study, I'd go with Maple (or Matlab, or...) instead of a fancy calculator. You should be able to get a student version for less than a high end calculator and you'll probably get much more mileage out of it.
     
  13. Oct 1, 2004 #12
    That may be a better investment. Just keep in mind that you can't carry that in class. Probably won't need to, anyway, though.
     
  14. Oct 1, 2004 #13

    Gokul43201

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    I'm halfway through my PhD in Physics, and I don't own a calculator. In math, I can't imagine why you'd want to spend 200 pounds (Wow! Is that what they cost ?) on a calculator.

    Can't you do whatever you need with Mathematica or Maple ?
     
  15. Oct 1, 2004 #14

    Zurtex

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    University computers have MatLab, Mathematica and MathCad. However I prefer something I can have at reach and I don't have a ethernet connection in my room :frown:

    I am doing a degree in the U.K, although I could of got in to somewhere like Cambridge and Oxford (a few friends got in to such universities and aren't as good at maths as I am and certainly don't 'wow' the interviewers) I felt a slightly more down to earth Uni is what I wanted so I choose UMIST although now it has merged and become the University of Manchester.
     
  16. Oct 1, 2004 #15

    mathwonk

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    i have a PhD in math, obtained in 1977. I own a calculator that I paid 11 dollars for, but seldom use other than to balance my checkbook. Until I turned about 40 o r50 I could actually do arithmetic faster in my head than on the calculator. It also has trig functions, and log and exponentials on it, but I do not care, as they are only approximations and I do not often approximate answers.

    Still I use it sometimes, say to approximate ln(2) to the nearest 3 or 4 places accuracy for my calculus class.

    Experience has taught us that students who use calculators too much do not learn to understand mathematics very well, so we generally discourage them.
     
  17. Oct 1, 2004 #16

    Gokul43201

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    Excellent ! Bravo ! My exact sentiments !

    (Didn't know that UMIST had been absorbed by UM...I guess they can finally say "United Forever" ! :biggrin:)
     
  18. Oct 1, 2004 #17
    Looks like I got quite a future to look for.
     
  19. Oct 2, 2004 #18

    Integral

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    An engineer can get good use out of a calculator, they frequently will start with a canned equation, plug in some numbers and get a numeric answer. An advanced degree in Math simply does not do that kind of thing. For your degree in Math you will be doing proofs. proofs, and more proofs, there is no need our even use for a calculator.

    I did a lot of work in numerical analysis on my way to my Math BS, even there the calculator was of little use. Most of the real problems which require number crunching must be done on a computer for the output if nothing else.

    Simply do not worry about the calculator or even programs like Maple and Matlab. As a mathematician if you go the applied and numerical analysis you will be working to understand the algorithms which the canned software is using. Therefore it would NOT be acceptable to use the software, more likely you would be writing programs of your own to do the calculations.

    Someone has to develop the algorithms used by the software, it was not found under a rock, that someone is a mathematician. There is very little use for a calculator, even for an applied mathematic an. For the pure fields even less.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2004
  20. Oct 2, 2004 #19
    Hi
    I am taking SAT II which says it requires the use of a sci-calculator.
    I am planning to take up Physics .Should I buy one or borrow one?
    Will it be needed in my undergraduate/graduate studies?
     
  21. Oct 2, 2004 #20

    shmoe

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    Do you have dial-up though? Matlab and Maple both have a text interface that works just fine over dial up for most purposes. The student version of Maple costs something like $115 Canadian. If you were planning to spend £200 on a calculator, Maple is a bargain. You lose portability, but make huge leaps with functionality.

    I'm working on a math phd now, and I actually use Maple quite a bit. A computer can never actually prove anything for me, but it can point in the right direction. How did Gauss come up with the prime number theorem (well, conjecture then)? He had manually calculated huge tables of primes. It's romantic to believe that all mathematics can be done by pencil, paper, and waste bin, and mindless calculation is for the accountants, but that's not the case in some fields.
     
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