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The Best Graphing Calculator on the Market? 724

Posted by Cliff
from the better-than-a-TI? dept.
aaronbeekay asks: "I'm a sophomore in high school taking an honors chem course. I'm being forced to buy something handheld for a calculator (I've been using Qalculate! and GraphMonkey on my Thinkpad until now). I see people all around me with TIs and think 'there could be something so much better'. The low-res, monochrome display just isn't appealing to me for $100-150, and I'd like for it to last through college. Is there something I can use close to the same price range with better screen, more usable, and more powerful? Which high-tech calculators do you guys use?"
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The Best Graphing Calculator on the Market?

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  • PDA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by revlayle (964221) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:48PM (#17760544) Homepage
    Do they make advanced graphing-calculator-like apps for them?
    • Re:PDA? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:55PM (#17760666) Homepage Journal
      Creative Creek [] seems to have a nice set for various PDAs.
      • Re:PDA? (Score:5, Informative)

        by paganizer (566360) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .1evorgeht.> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:14PM (#17761792) Homepage Journal
        Grab a Palm TX; they rock. built in WiFi. Literally thousands of free apps & games, great text readers, easy to print out your work to a network printer.
        I gave away the first PDA I got because I could not figure out a way in which it would possibly assist me more than carrying around a pad & pen.
        But the TX does everything. It's got a SD slot, so you can carry around full length movies, a million MP3's...
        Excuse me, I have to go hug my palm.
        • Re:PDA? (Score:5, Informative)

          by CrudPuppy (33870) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:33PM (#17761982) Homepage
          I love my HP48GX. and once you grok RPN, there truly is no going back. so much easier for huge long formula calculations
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Sinbios (852437)
          >> Excuse me, I have to go hug my palm. So THAT's what they call it nowadays, eh?
      • Re:PDA? (Score:5, Informative)

        by CalSolt (999365) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:42PM (#17762090)
        You obviously aren't familiar with the AP tests. No PDAs allowed, only graphing calculators.

        Personally, I think the TI-89 is the best graphing calculator you can get. It's got very helpful algebraic functions that solve equations, factor polynomials, etc. It even does indefinite integration and differentiation of functions (very useful for checking your work when you take calculus, the TI-83 does no such thing). Everything looks nice and shows up just like you would write the algebra, so data entry is much easier. Previous calculations are stored in memory and you can just scroll up and select an answer or the calculation, and it will show up in the entry line. Very useful for complex calculations. It has the capability to display exact values, ie for cos(30) most calculators will give you .866, but the TI-89 can also give you rad(3)/2. It also has standard stuff like constants, unit conversions, and ability to write your own programs which may or may not be useful to you. On the whole it's very useful and I can't think of anything more that I would want from my graphing calculator. These days they have some silver/platinum crap which draws graphs faster and has more memory for programs; I'd go with that.

        To be honest, you only really need a calculator until you leave high school. Getting anything fancier than a TI-89 is a waste of money. In college, a simple scientific calculator will suffice for lower division classes. If you go into engineering you will be doing serious math by hand and serious calculations by computer (MATLAB or FORTRAN). No more "graphing" in the sense of the primitive capabilities of graphing calculators. Once you've learned about all the things they can do, you move onto more complex functions and calculations, more complex data sets, and you just don't need to use a calculator to figure out what y = x^2 looks like. I imagine science and mathematics is the same, except maybe with Maple or something.
        • Re:PDA? (Score:5, Informative)

          by JaWiB (963739) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:54PM (#17762208)
          I would second a TI-89, if your teacher allows you to use it on exams. I had one for calc in high school, used it on the AP test and all my calc exams, and it makes things much easier. It is almost cheating, though, since it does symbolic differetiation/integration. Now that I'm in college, the professors won't let us use an 89 on the tests, but it's still nice when you want to check your answers for homework.
        • Re:PDA? (Score:5, Informative)

          by SteelFist (734281) on Friday January 26, 2007 @01:20AM (#17764330)
          I must disagree with the parent on using the TI-89 in college. I am a junior in electrical engineering, and I use it all the time. While it is true that we use MATLAB for several classes, when it comes to test time, we aren't allowed to use computers. The TI-89 has definately helped me a lot in these classes, and on long 13+ hour assignments, it is extreemly helpful to simply let the calculator do the basic integrations and differentiations. That said, my personal advice would be to go with the TI-89. It is robust, very common, and with features like symbolic integration, amazingly useful.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by malvidin (951569)
      Yes, I currently use Spacetime [] and sometimes Pocket Excel.
  • TI 89 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:49PM (#17760560)
    I use a TI89. It's about as good as you're going to get without it not being allowed on tests, etc.
    • by jpardey (569633)
      Actually, it probably won't be allowed on tests. Here in Canada, I had to use my 83+ for all tests, even into college now.
      • by FhnuZoag (875558)
        Man, what degrees are you guys taking?

        In my maths course, no calculators are allowed in *any exam*, full stop.
        • What degree are *you* taking? I got a BS in math, and I'm working on my ME in systems engineering and applying to the PhD program. No one cares about calculators. In fact, I make a habit out of using Mathematica, R and (gasp) Excel to automate calculations and such. Not only is this *allowed*, it's *expected* in higher-level courses. No professor wants to wait while you solve every problem by hand when the point of the class is something other than learning to manipulate numbers.

          Math is about more than
        • by jpardey (569633)
          Where I am now I am taking physics. I take standard math math courses in the program. We are allowed a specified calculator in most courses. This is a fairly major university, probably the second largest in my sub-country division. Back at my old college, I could take my 83+ into most tests, and I managed to bring an 89 into a first year calculus exam (just for the interface, I didn't do derivatives or anything on it).
  • HP (Score:4, Informative)

    by pyite (140350) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:49PM (#17760562)
    HP is the only option. Sure, no one will no what you are doing (especially if you use RPN), but that means no one can borrow it, either. Oh, and if you use RPN you'll probably be a lot quicker than most of your classmates, too.

    I have an HP-48GX and it served me well through high school and four years of engineering school.

    • Re:HP (Score:4, Informative)

      by honkycat (249849) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:58PM (#17760722) Homepage Journal
      I have to agree that HP is the way to go. I had a TI-85 in HS/college which was all right, but the HP options are hands down more durable and more capable.

      Personally, I decided that I did not actually need the graphing features so now just use an HP-33s. It's pretty solid and does everything I need. For me, in the real world, I found that the graphing capabilities of the calcs were not useful -- if I needed to plot, I would do it on a computer. The graphing calc was just not a substitute. I suppose the programming might be more flexible on the bigger calculators as well, but I have not once found myself wishing for one since high school.

      (for reference, I've worked as an electrical engineer/programmer and am now a graduate student in physics)
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Personally, I decided that I did not actually need the graphing features so now just use an HP-33s. It's pretty solid and does everything I need. For me, in the real world, I found that the graphing capabilities of the calcs were not useful -- if I needed to plot, I would do it on a computer. The graphing calc was just not a substitute. I suppose the programming might be more flexible on the bigger calculators as well, but I have not once found myself wishing for one since high school.

        I must agree with you
        • Re:HP (Score:5, Insightful)

          by miskatonic alumnus (668722) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @08:48PM (#17761432)
          For anyone who is planning to be a physical scientist or an engineer, a powerful calculator is a handicap and will hurt you in the long run. The ease of solving problems in low level math courses will come to haunt you when you take a course that includes something like Laplace transforms or complex analysis.

          Spoken like someone who doesn't know how calculators are intended to be used. As I have told many a math student in my classes, calculators are no substitute for understanding how to work a problem. They are labor saving devices ... period. As far as being haunted in higher level courses, try numerical analysis sometime. As a student in that class, I had to write programs to solve differential equations, do numerical differentiation/integration, calculate eigenvalues/eigenvectors, and so on.
      • For me, in the real world, I found that the graphing capabilities of the calcs were not useful -- if I needed to plot, I would do it on a computer.

        Personally, I'd still like my TI-89 even if I never graphed anything on it again. I just really like being able to see the whole expression I type in (not to mention that it's "pretty printed").

    • I too used an HP48GX in high school and college, but I don't think HP sells them any more. A quick check on amazon and google shows used ones $250 and up (one listed for $500 on Amazon). The much maligned (IIRC) 49G+ is listed for about $110, again, used. You're absolutely right that no one can borrow it. The easiest way to teach people was basically tell them to press the single quote ('), type in the equation, and press "eval". /me goes on the DMV website to see if RPN4EVA is taken ;)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by cab15625 (710956)
      Had an HP48SX for years. I used to use it in the lab for plotting data as I went (good way to see if you should keep going into the wee hours or scrap an experiment before it wastes too much time). It finally died about half way through my PhD (chemistry) when it had a bottle of THF spill on it.

      They are rugged. My old one got dropped all over the place, crushed in a book bag on numerous occasions, you name it. It took some heavy duty organic solvents to finally kill it dead.

      They have a truck load of

    • Re:HP (Score:5, Interesting)

      by brarrr (99867) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:14PM (#17761790) Journal
      My friend's father's HP48 was in a briefcase which was left behind during evacuation of the world trade center, somewhere around the 70th floor. 6 months after 9/11, FBI called him up (the evacuated father who made it out) and said "we need you to come down and identify a few items" briefcase made it through with lots of things trashed inside, mostly crushed... but the HP was still working just fine.

      strong statement as to their durability.
  • RPN Baby! (Score:5, Funny)

    by billdar (595311) * <yap> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:51PM (#17760588) Homepage
    HP-48GX [], hands down for engineers.

    There is just something fundamentally appealing to owning a powerful calculator 90% of the population can't even add two numbers on...

    • by Otter (3800)
      In all seriousness -- I understand why RPN was advantageous decades ago. But given that nowadays there's no problem carrying enough computer power to handle any problem you might realistically key in, using [whatever normal notation is called], is there any reason to use RPN besides masochism?
      • Re:RPN Baby! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Mr. Frilly (6570) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @08:34PM (#17761242)
        RPN is argueably faster, as you don't need to enter in parenthesis. But you end up having to press the enter key a lot, so the advantage quickly evaporates.

        A friend of mine at MIT had an HP-48, and I had a TI-81, we used to do a lot of engineering problem sets together and would often race on entering calculations. Averaged over time the competition was a draw. Although the HP-48 definitely wins from a "cool" factor perspective (where cool=geek).

        Speaking of the TI-81, I bought mine in 1991 for $82, and I'm still using it every day.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:16PM (#17761816) Homepage Journal
          My wife teaches Fluid Dynamics and she's doing something with that HP-48 every night. Whatever it is, I'm not allowed to touch it. She carries that thing around like it was the crown jewels. When she was pregnant she left her graphing calculator in her office and I had to walk 2 miles in a Chicago blizzard to get it for her.

          A few years ago I was doing the taxes and I reached for it to do some arithmetic and she nearly broke my hand. But that might just be her Eastern European sternness coming through. I got a little too enthusiastic on one of our first dates and almost lost the hand that time, too.
        • Re:RPN Baby! (Score:4, Interesting)

          by swillden (191260) * <> on Friday January 26, 2007 @02:05AM (#17764770) Homepage Journal

          A friend of mine at MIT had an HP-48, and I had a TI-81, we used to do a lot of engineering problem sets together and would often race on entering calculations. Averaged over time the competition was a draw.

          Then your friend was slow -- or you were very quick. Take some complex expressions and write out the keystrokes required in RPN and infix notations, and you'll see that RPN almost always wins. However, the big win isn't the keystrokes, it's the mental complexity. With infix, you have to maintain too much state in your head -- with particularly nasty expressions, you basically have to keep track of the whole expression in order to enter it all correctly, closing the parentheses at the right times. With RPN, you think about it differently, "collapsing" subexpressions as early as possible, minimizing the amount of you have to hold.

          My friends and I ran a series of tests in college, specifically to determine which was more efficient. Not only did the postfix evaluations typically have 10-20% fewer keystrokes, the person writing the postfix version typically finished writing the evaluation while the person writing the infix was still figuring out how to express it. What finally convinced the doubters in our little experiment to buy HPs was that the infix evaluation got the wrong answer much more often than the postfix evaluation did -- usually because of some miscounted parentheses.

          RPN is faster, easier and more accurate on complex expressions.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by arodland (127775)
        It's about the computing power in your head, not on the calculator. With RPN, once you're used to it, you actually have to carry less state around, and it's easier to enter things properly and quickly. You just have to get used to thinking in what seems like a very funny way to start with.
  • You might be able to pick one up cheap on eBay or elsewhere, and spend the remaining $80-130 on something fun.
  • HP 48GX (Score:2, Informative)

    by c0d3r (156687)
    I loved my hp 48gx... you could use it as a remote control or to chat via IR a long time ago before phone SMS existed. It also has a lot of advanced features, and games if you can get used to RPN. I'm sure HP has a nicer version these days.
  • by Paltin (983254) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:52PM (#17760616)
    I just made it through single variable calculus and chemistry using an old TI-82 and a TI-86, which I had from high school ten years ago. Both were more then adequate for calc & chemistry, and you can get them for $10 / $30 respectively on ebay. They had most of the same functions as newer TI's, and served me well.

    My only difficulty was an occasion scramble to find where some higher level functions were, as the rest of the class had newer calcs and they couldn't help me out.

    Just do yourself a favor, get an older calc (with an instruction book), and spend the rest of the cash on ice cream.
  • Frankly... People still use scientific calculators?

    However, and far more importantly... I got a free solar powered calculator today and I'm unaccountably pleased with it.

    • by Jesterboy (106813)
      I made it all the way through my CS degree without a graphing calculator. I had to think about what I was doing a little more, but it was fine.

      Also, I got to keep it on a lot more tests than the graphing calculator people...^_^
  • Ummm, HP 48G (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gogl (125883) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:54PM (#17760658) Journal
    No, it's not "high tech", by today's standards. Yes, it's low-res and monochrome. But you know what? It's the best damned calculator there is (well if you want to get a GX/GX+ or whatever for more memory that's fine too, though frankly not terribly necessary for most applications). It's got a steep learning curve (RPN and all that), but once you get over it you'll have the quickest and most useful device there is. It's built well (I've used mine for 12 years and it's doing just fine), feels good, and does the job right.

    This is one realm where you want a tool, not a toy - if you want something flashy and shiny with a nice screen and pleasing UI, save your pennies for an iPhone or something. If you want something that does math, and does it damn well, buy an HP calculator.

    PS - I guess this doesn't quite fit your answer as according to Wikipedia they stopped making them back in 2003, so it's not really "on the market" any more. They are currently selling HP-49 series, which is still better than TIs but just isn't built like the 48Gs (the tactile feel of the keys really does matter on a device where punching numbers is the main use). Still, I'm guessing that 30 seconds with eBay and you'll find 48G's...
  • by billdar (595311) * <yap> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:55PM (#17760662) Homepage
    Just like in HS and college, only the "Vi vs. Emacs" argument is more heated than "HP vs TI".

    Especially when the HP48GX is the clear winner... /me ducks

    • by pyite (140350)
      What's funny is that 10 years ago there really wouldn't be a discussion, because you wouldn't find an engineer worth his weight in solder that didn't have a 48GX. At some point, a systematic sissification of generations of engineers occurred and they started using the crap that TI makes because it was slightly newer (albeit not really any more functional).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica (681592) *
        At some point, a systematic sissification of generations of engineers occurred and they started using the crap that TI makes because...

        ...they had been forced to use TI calculators in high school, and that was what they were used to.

  • by andy314159pi (787550) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @07:59PM (#17760734) Journal
    The TI-89 is *mediocre* with drawing graphs, as you indicated. However, if you are going to study more science, it can do symbolic manipulation that you might only expect in a program like Maple or mathematica. If you are feeling dimwitted and can't work out an integral or maybe if you can't figure out if a particular algebraic equation has a solution then you can ask this device. It has more advanced features that I haven't used but if you tinker with it you'll get alot of use out of it. Also, as far as the graph drawing goes, I think they have a TI-92 that does better with those.
  • HP 48 4-Life!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GreggBz (777373) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @08:05PM (#17760822) Homepage
    It's 12 years old, it's a little slow and they don't make them anymore, but the HP 48 series is a magnificent calculator.

    RPN is very nice for long equations. Once you get used to it, you'll be more accurate and efficient. You'll never want to go back to algebraic entry. It has a lot of features, and still stands up pretty well to modern offerings. Unless they've made calculus problems a lot harder, you won't need anything more functionality wise.

    The built in equation library is very nice. There is a plethora of available programs to download. The IR sensor is just cool and the keys have the best tactile feel of any calculators ever, and the batteries last about 20 months. Oh, and you could probably dip it in motor oil, and it would still work. The screen while having good contrast, is very fragile however. That's one bad thing.

    Expect to pay $250 on ebay for a 48GX unless you get lucky. (The 128K expandable model. Original MSRP was $159 I think) You can probably get a 48G (32KB non expandable model) in your price range though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by vogon jeltz (257131)
      "Oh, and you could probably dip it in motor oil, and it would still work"
      Don't know about your HP-48 (which I own too, by the way), but one day the tomcat puked right onto my old HP-32S, which it didn't appreciate at all. I had to disassemble it (try that with the tank-like construction of HPs, took me me 2 hours) in order to clean it and make it work again.
  • If you want a handheld graphing calculator, the TI-89 is about as good as it gets. With a broad selection of pre-loaded applications and the ability to load more from a PC, there's really nothing it can't do. If you want even more flash, the TI Voyage 200 has a full (small) keyboard, but basically the same hardware features as the TI-89. I have an HP RPN calculator also and I like it a lot, but the HPs don't do linear algebra which pretty much excludes them from use in a number of undergrad courses.

    If yo
  • Mathematica+UMPC? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by HRbnjR (12398)
    If you have the cash, why not install Mathematica on a handheld UMPC?

    Special purpose hardware is dead.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WMD_88 (843388)
      For some weird reason, this is among the funniest posts I've read here in a long time.


      Seriously dude...he wants a handheld calculator, and you respond with UMPC with Mathematica installed on it. Wow.
  • Casio had some color screen models, but they were shit. It's always been HP or TI and the HP calculator division has been stagnant for a very long time. You're going to want a TI-89 or an actual computer running Mathematica. The last HP calculator I used was way behind the TI-92 many areas and I don't think there has been a new model since. If you have to graph a differential equation on an HP, be prepared to wait. The TI-89 has symbolic calculus, algebra, differential equations, ... It can solve up to seco
  • Just get the TI-83 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Grey Ninja (739021)
    The higher level graphing calculators are REALLY nice, and are sometimes a boon in the private sector, when you have to do some really fancy math. However, they are completely impractical for school. In high school, you NEED a Ti-83. A laptop is too powerful, and they aren't going to allow you to bring it with you for a test.

    But I am a recent University graduate. I think I had something like 1 or 2 classes that allowed me to bring a Ti-83 into the test with me. Most of my math based classes specific
  • HP-50G (Score:2, Informative)

    by zizzo (86200)
    Not sure why everyone's pimping the 48/GX. The 50G is actually the first good calculator from HP in a long time. The screen is sharp, the keys are good, it's fast, and takes SD cards. But if you aren't up for learning RPN, just buckle down and get a TI.
  • by Hadlock (143607)
    Adding to the holy war; the TI-83 is a tank. My high school physics teacher would litterally toss them across the classroom for kids to catch. About 1 in 5 were dropped or missed completely, bouncing off the tile. All teachers are familiar with the 83 (meaning: they can help you troubleshoot it when you can't figure out how to do something) and it's allowed on virtually all tests. It may do less, but it should get you through any non-engineering/hard science degree at a 4 year school. If you go with anythin
  • Durability (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @08:22PM (#17761058)
    No question that the HP 48G is the one to get if you want something that will last. TI's or the Carly era HP's aren't as durable by a long shot. I have a small collection of HP's that has some models that date back to the 80's, and they all work quite well despite being 25 years old. One of the models I have is the 41cx which is distinguished for being carried on the early space shuttle missions for use to supplement the on-board computers.

    If you do get a 48GX do be careful protecting the screen. The carrying case doesn't provide enough protection - I lost one because of that.

  • The low-res, monochrome display just isn't appealing to me for $100-150, and I'd like for it to last through college. Is there something I can use close to the same price range with better screen, more usable, and more powerful?

    Better rethink why you are buying a calculator. I normally use my TI-89 for.. well.. calculating. I don't use it to play games (get a DS or PSP for that), listening to music (get an mp3 player), or doing complicated analysis that requires a large screen (Maple for the PC, or may

  • HP 48 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by peacefinder (469349) * <alan.dewitt@gm a i l . c om> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @08:40PM (#17761334) Journal
    Any model from this series of calculator is an excellent tool. (Except the HP48II, which is apparently a dog.)

    The bad news is that HP's calculator division ain't what it used to be. The good news is that almost all HP calculators are extremely durable. I have personally worn out multiple HP calculator keypads, but it took about two years of heavy use to wear out each one. And by heavy use I don't mean mere homework... I mean 8 to 10 hour days at my job, where 60% of my job was to crunch numbers. (Yes this job was better suited to other hardware, but I worked with what I could get.) If you can find a used one that works at all, it should prove very durable.

    If you can find one, a 48G or 48GX would be excellent.

    (I am less impressed with the newer HP49 and its derivatives. It seemed to be a step backwards in usability to me, mainly because of the keypad layout. The all-important "enter" key is in a bad spot, and not double-sized.)
  • WHy any? (Score:2, Insightful)

    I'm a PhD student in math, and I have no idea why anyone would want to give a student a calculator. Much less a graphing calculator. It's fine as a means of removing tedium, but students need to do a lot of tedious things once or twice. In the calculus class I teach, I can't think of a single aspect of the class that would be improved by having a calculator.
    • Re:WHy any? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DraconPern (521756) <`moc.liamtoh' `ta' `nrepnocard'> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:31PM (#17761968) Homepage
      If you are that narrow minded, please don't teach that class. It's detrimental to your students.
    • Re:WHy any? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by macklin01 (760841) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:08PM (#17762344) Homepage
      I'm a PhD student in math, and I have no idea why anyone would want to give a student a calculator. Much less a graphing calculator. It's fine as a means of removing tedium, but students need to do a lot of tedious things once or twice. In the calculus class I teach, I can't think of a single aspect of the class that would be improved by having a calculator.

      I'm also a Ph.D. student in math (defending my dissertation next month), and I've found the exact opposite to be true. There's no better way to develop a deeper understanding of something than to play with it. As regards calculus and functions, this means plotting functions, composing them, zooming in on them, adding them, differentiating them, multiplying them, etc. This is especially relevant with polar and parametric equations, which can take some time to get the hang of.

      The newer calculators even let you play with systems of differential equations and trace out solutions, flow lines, etc. What a great way to learn to visualize otherwise abstract concepts! If students would just sit and play with equations and see what the solutions would look like, they would have a much better grasp of what to expect when they encounter something new. Otherwise, it can tend to be a matter of memorizing a cook book of solution techniques.

      Of course, there are times when the calculator can be a hinderance. In particular, the built-in symbolic differentiation and integration can become a crutch. (On the other hand, it's a great way to check your answers.) However, most of the associated problems can easily be dealt with by properly writing your curriculum. (e.g., giving calculator-free exams to test differentiation knowledge, splitting them into two-part exams (without calculator, then with calculator), giving weekly 5-minute self-quizzes, etc.)

      At the end of the day, a graphing calculator is just another tool that can be used to help or hinder education. How it goes depends on a combination of student motivation and the leadership and guidance they receive from their professors and teaching assistants. (i.e., you) -- Paul

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shylock0 (561559)
        This is absolutely true. I got bored in trig/Algebra II when I was in high school, and so instead taught myself calculus using (a first-production-run) TI-89. The ability to differentiate and integrate symbolically was what let me do it, and I skipped/passed out of an entire semester of high school math.
  • TI nspire (Score:5, Informative)

    by zbowling (597617) * < minus cat> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @08:44PM (#17761382) Homepage Journal
    Although, I'm a little partial being a developer for TI and working on the next generation of calculators, I would have to say the TI nspire is the next big thing. It should be out next quarter. More to come.... onProductMulti/nspire_cas.html [] []
    • Re:TI nspire (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Solder Fumes (797270) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @09:28PM (#17761944)
      That looks cool, but it seems to have too few buttons for my tastes. The main thing I like about my venerable TI-85 is the ease of accessing most of the functions within one, two, or three keypresses. No putzing around with a cursor and joystick. Unless the UI is VERY well designed indeed, I'm skeptical of TI's new system.

      If you can prove me wrong, and show that the nspire is as accessible as the TI-85, I might buy one just for day-to-day field engineering needs.
  • It's a shame that the Qonos [] hasn't really taken off... it looks like there hasn't been any development for 2 years.

    It's amazing how much computing power there is now compared to my 4-bit processor hp48 (it still rocks). If only there was a nokia770-like device with a decent keyboard, it would make a great calculator platform.
  • by davegust (624570) <> on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:10PM (#17762356)
    Got me through engineering school, and after 20 years, I still use it every day. It is just a basic calculator, but it has most of the advanced operations, including polar-rect, complex math, hex, oct, binary, basic statictics, deg-rad-grad, deg-min-sec.

    And it only cost me about $25. I don't know if there is a modern equivalent.

    I do agree that HP's postfix is easier to use, but I always used paper for my intermediate steps, which was usually required anyway.

    My advice, forget the graphing and other crap. If you need to write code for your problem, you need a laptop.

  • by nukem996 (624036) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @10:25PM (#17762486)
    I'm not sure about your high school but mine required a TI-83+ or TI-84+. Any other was not allowed(most teachers didn't enforce it though). I was also told that I can't use the TI-89 on the SATs although that may have changed. When I got to college I was told I'm not allowed to use a calculator of any sort for anything. When I get to the high level classes I'm allowed to use one but we have Maple which is much more advanced then a normal calculator.
  • TI-85 (Score:3, Informative)

    by gorfie (700458) on Thursday January 25, 2007 @11:41PM (#17763302)
    Purchased a TI-85 back in 93 I think and it has been to hell and back in terms of physical abuse (I probably dropped it over 200 times, it's been crammed in bags with textbooks and dropped on the floor and now it rides with me in my laptop case when I go to/from work). One of the best things I've ever purchased as it does everything I need (although it may not be as automated as the newer ones), battery life is not a problem, I could use it in all my school tests, and it is quite rugged/reliable. I still use it at least once a week when I need to do calculations at work.
  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday January 26, 2007 @08:37AM (#17766780) Journal
    I have yet to understand where a graphing calculator is necessary over a non-graphing calculator. I've been an engineer for 20 years, in aerospace, mechanical design, and in architectural/strucutral design. I grew up on computers and such (I am not of the slide rule generation), so I understand the utility in most technical gadgets - but I don't get how graphing is useful.

    The only time I have ever seen it used is to show the multple zeros of an equation, but even that was just a curiosity. If you can't get a pretty printout, why bother? Furthermore, you need the exact numbers anyway whenever you want to solve something. If you want to estimate, do it in your head.

    Admittedly, I own an HP48, so I use the screen as a visual stack. Again, all of the graphing fuctions are pretty, but not practical unless you happen to be using it for a game, or calendar, or as a help screen in an equation (and if you need a help screen, imo you don't know the equation well enough to be using a calculator).

    So, are there really useful or computationally practical reasons for a graphing calulator, or does everyone just want them because they are "cool"?

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun