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(ARA) – Do you remember the good old days when buying school supplies meant a couple of three-ring binders, a few pens and paper? Today the variety and requirements for school supplies seem almost endless – even classroom calculators come in a dizzying array of functions, shapes and sizes. But choosing the right calculator that will carry your students through their school careers doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Calculating your choices

Choosing the right calculator can be easy, if you know what to look for. “Four types of calculators are typically used for school: basic, scientific, graphing and financial,” says Tom Reardon, a senior math adviser for Texas Instruments. “The one that’s right for each student depends on how that student is going to use it. Your child’s current and future courses can be a great indicator; so can his or her grade-level and concentration of study.”

Basic calculators: Pocket-sized digital calculators add, subtract, multiply and divide. Some models also have the ability to compute percentages and square roots. They are a good choice for students taking basic math who don’t need to chart graphs or use upper-level math functions.

Financial calculators: Financial calculators perform basic math functions and help calculate the growth of money over time. Financial calculators are generally used by business, finance and real estate students and professionals. They analyze pricing and statistical data and can determine the rates of return on investments, amortization and monthly payment schedules. They can generate depreciation schedules, calculate cash flows, identify break-even amounts and compute bond prices, yields and accrued interest.

Scientific calculators: These calculators are used in math, science and engineering courses. Most have two-line displays for fast calculations of large numbers. Scientific calculators are often used by middle and high school students in trigonometry and other math and science courses. They perform scientific notations, trigonometric functions, such as sine and cosine, and exponential functions, including square roots, constants and logarithmic functions.

Graphing calculators: Designed to help students visualize math and science concepts, graphing calculators include the functions of scientific calculators along with graphing capability. They have a larger display that’s perfect for viewing data in graph and spreadsheet form. They are often used by middle school, high school and college students in upper-level math courses, including algebra, algebra 2, geometry, calculus, trigonometry and statistics. They also are used in science courses, such as chemistry and physics. Some even include the functions of a financial calculator. Graphing calculators support operations with variables and multiple lines of text and calculations, and they can plot and show several graphs at once. This makes it easier for students to explore math equations, see patterns and understand the concepts behind the formulas.

Calculators: adding the fun factor

Calculators, like cell phones, can be accessorized, customized and personalized to reflect the student’s own unique style. Students can design a customized “look” for their TI-84 Plus and TI-Nspire graphing calculators’ protective slide case by downloading “graffiti art” from TI’s Student Zone. Students also can change the color of their TI-84 Plus Silver Edition faceplate or case. Free games, screensavers and IM icons are also available for download.

The right calculator encourages students to explore math and science on a deeper level, which facilitates a better understanding of concepts. With a deeper understanding of critical concepts, students are more prepared for the “real world” and have more fun in their math and science classes.

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Author: Andy Quayle

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