Texas Instrument Graphing Calculators for Students

TI Graphing Calculators in the Classroom

Do you have a student getting ready to start an advanced mathematics course? If so, you have probably been told that as part of their class they need to purchase a Texas Instruments graphing calculator. While this calculator may seem like a very expensive investment, it is actually something that will help your student throughout the remainder of their educational career, especially if they plan on attending college or entering a science/technology career. Before going out to purchase a TI graphing calculator, it is important that you consider a few things, especially since there are so many different types of graphing calculators on the market.

TI Graphing Calulators for Students

Is a graphing calculator a crutch that keeps students from learning basic math skills? This has been a 40+ year old debate among educators. Some experts believe that using a graphing calculator will destroy a student’s ability to perform basic math functions without a calculator, and others say that using a graphing calculator will allow students to dig deeper into complex math problems and learn even more. Research has suggested that it is important for children to first learn how to solve problems on their own, but once a concept has been learned, using a calculator is ok, and can be a great time saver.



Before purchasing any type of graphing calculator, there are some things you need to consider. For one, graphing calculators shouldn’t be purchased to use in school unless they are recommended by your classroom teacher. Some schools prefer not to allow the use of graphing calculators for certain math classes, mostly since it is believed that children should know how to do some math by hand before depending on a calculator. For this reason, some schools do not recommend that students have a graphing calculator until they are ready to start Algebra II.

If it is recommended that your student buy a graphing calculator, make sure to purchase the type of calculator recommended by their teacher. Most schools recommend a certain type of Texas Instruments graphing calculator since this is the most widely used calculator brand in the world. For this reason, many textbooks have activities geared toward walking children through activities on this type of calculator.

Most of the time, your teacher will recommend that you purchase some model of TI-84. This is one of the most widely known and affordable graphing calculators on the market, making it a very popular choice for most advanced middle school or high school classrooms.

Classroom Needs

There are a variety of different TI-84 calculators on the market, ranging in price from $100 to $400, depending on model and where you decide to purchase your calculator. To make things even more confusing, these Texas Instruments graphing calculators have a variety of potentially useful features, ranging from simple programmability, to full colored 3-D graphing. While some of these features may sound very interesting to a teenager, it is important that you don’t get more features than your child may possibly need for the course or their school’s requirements. For example, some of the more advanced TI-84 calculators may be too advanced for your student and have pre-installed programs that your teacher may ban in the course. If you aren’t certain, make sure to talk to the teacher first.

Another reason to go with the calculator recommended by your teacher is that it will be used by others in the class. By having the same Texas Instruments graphing calculator as other students, your child will be able to easily ask for help from other students, or be assisted by the teacher since they will know how to operate the calculator used by everyone else in the classroom. As well, it is possible to get assistance and extra programs online for most of the standard graphing calculators, allowing your child to add extra learning games and functions to better help them in school.

Using a Graphing Calculator on Standardized Tests

As if getting the right Texas Instruments graphing calculator for classes wasn’t confusing enough, parents should also consider standardized testing when purchasing a graphing calculator. Some graphing calculators have been banned from certain tests, including the ACT and SAT.  While some parents may think it’s silly, some of the testing boards feel that certain calculators give testers an unfair advantage, especially if it comes with preloaded software or programs to help students solve challenging equations quickly. The point of these tests is to see how much students know, not how well they can program their calculator. For this reason they usually only want basic calculators that can easily be monitored and are unable to hold many notes or programs.

So, what type of Texas Instruments graphing calculator should you purchase for your child if they are getting ready to take these tests? Well, most of the TI-84 calculators are safe for both the ACT and SAT. Every year, the testing boards put out a list of calculators that are approved, so make sure to look at your form to see what is allowed and what is not. As well, Texas Instruments says on their product pages which of their TI graphing calculators have been approved for testing and which ones have been outright banned by the testing boards.

Programming Texas Instruments Graphing Calculators

One of the best parts of having a Texas Instruments graphing calculator is that they are easy to program. Along with having pre-installed programs, it is possible to purchase or create your own programs that can easily be uploaded to the calculator using the proper cable. Many textbook publishers have been making programs to make learning even easier for students, including homework assignments that can be done completely on the calculator, and learning games to make learning Calculus a bit easier. Recently, some companies have even been making programs with science lessons, allowing students to study for different science classes while they are on the go. Before purchasing any of these programs, however, make sure to talk to your teacher to make sure they aren’t going against any classroom rules that could be giving your child an unfair advantage on classroom tests.

Along with there being hundreds of different programs online, it is also possible for interested students to write their own programs using Texas Instruments graphing calculators. While the language does take a bit of time to learn, quite a few students enjoy making video games and other useful programs on their graphing calculators. If your child is interested in programming and wanting to do a variety of other tasks with their graphing calculator, you may want to consider this before purchasing one for your student. With the right amount of time and research, it is possible to find the perfect Texas Instruments graphing calculator for any situation!

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