Thursday, August 6, 2015

College Calculators: Algebra I Graphing Calculator, Financial Calculator, Scientific Calculator

TI-83 Graphing Calculator
Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Algebra Calculator: Graphing Calculators are a Must for College

There are so many things to purchase when going to college, including an algebra calculator. Most colleges and universities require students to take the appropriate level math class their first semester, and register for subsequent math classes until College Algebra is successfully completed.
Depending on the major the student selects, there may also be more algebra classes, such as linear algebra, as well as trigonometry and calculus or business calculus. Finance, statistics, physics, and accounting classes, among others, also require students to calculate functions and expressions, so a calculator will be used throughout most of the college years.
When I went to college, I purchased the TI-83. I used it all four years for undergrad studies, then used it for accounting and statistics classes in grad school. I still have it and use it when I need to work with complex functions and formulas.
Many colleges will have short training classes on how to use graphing or scientific calculators. If you have not used one before, be sure to sign up for the class. It will make all your calculation tasks much easier.

TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator

Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator - I love my calculator!

Now that I am out of college, I use my graphing calculator for my business.

Since it keeps all the numbers on the screen, I can see which numbers I have entered as I add up my purchases.

Now that I am out of school, I like to take this calculator shopping. I can keep up with how much I am spending, and tell at a glance if I missed entering an item. 

How to Use the TI83 or TI84 Calculator

Programmable graphing calculators are not
allowed in tests such as the ACT or SAT,
since you should know the formulas.

How Many Calculators Do You Need for College?

More Than One!

TI84 graphing calculator
Truth is, you will actually need more than one calculator for college. During some tests, you will be allowed to have a calculator with you, but you cannot have one that is programmable. Programmable calculators can have formulas pre-programmed into the memory.
Graphing calculators are necessary when you get to the graphing section of your algebra class, but will also be useful if you take trigonometry and calculus. Most are also programmable. This is why you can't take these into tests--you are supposed to know the formulas for the test.
Scientific calculators will be required for classes such as chemistry, physics, and other sciences.
A business financial calculator is designed to round the answer, so while it is great for a finance class, you can't use it for your math classes.
So if your major requires finance, business, or accounting classes, you will probably have to have three different calculators: one for algebra and calculus, one for your finance and accounting classes, and a scientific calculator for science courses and for taking tests when programmable calculators are not allowed.
TI-84 Plus graphing calculators come in different colors, too. If you have more than one student, having different colors of calculators will make it easy to identify which calculator belongs to which student.

Most graphing calculators can be pre-programmed with formulas, which means they will be prohibited for some tests.

TI BA II Plus Financial Calculator

Due to the automatic rounding function of financial calculators, they are not acceptable for classes that require more precision in answers.

They are usually required for stats, accounting, economics, and other business math classes.


Items for Your Backpack

  • Calculators (each kind you will need for classes)
  • Small stapler/staples
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Highlighters (2 colors)
  • Sticky Notes
  • Tape
  • Band-Aid bandages
  • Small Sewing Kit

Scientific Calculators
are best for tests that don't
allow programmable calculators.
A scientific calculator will allow you to input calculations with parentheses, which is important for all classes that require you to input complex formulas into your calculator.
The display shows two lines of numbers f
or your equations. With both solar and battery power, this calculator works at any time and any where.


Using the TI-30X Scientific Calculator

Have you used a graphing calculator?


  1. During my undergrad studies, I had all three of the calculators mentioned on this page. Different classes required different calculators. I don't like using the financial calculator, since it rounds and now that I am out of college, I need a calculator that gives exact answers.

    1. I sold my financial calculator for the same reason. I prefer a calculator that allows me to do my own rounding.