How to Pick the best Graphic Calculator for your Child

At a cost of $80 to $200, choosing a graphic calculator becomes a big decision. You want your child to have the best graphing calculator with all the necessary features, but the choices can be confusing. Use the following tips to learn how to pick the best graphic calculator for your child.

* Listen to the Teacher *

Your child will not need a graphing calculator at least until Algebra I. Do not buy a graphic calculator until you have a recommendation from your child’s teacher. Some Algebra teachers will send home a note about graphing calculators or address the subject at Back to School night.

If she does not, be sure to ask. Some teachers have calculators for students to use at school and do not require students to buy them. If you can wait, then wait. Buying a graphing calculator before your child needs one may leave you stuck with an outdated or non-recommended model when the requirement does come up. Otherwise, trust your teacher’s recommendation on which graphing calculator to buy.

* Do Not Buy an Off-Brand Calculator *

In the world of graphic calculators, Texas Instruments has an 80% share of the education market. Hewlett-Packard is the second most popular, but their graphing calculators are generally used in later math and engineering courses. Texas Instruments graphing calculators are most often used in middle schools and high schools.

There is a difference in the way calculators work from one brand to the next. If the teacher is using a Texas Instruments calculator, it may be difficult for your child to follow along with another brand. Your child’s teacher may not be familiar with other brands, which can cause frustration for both her and your child. A graphing calculator should help your child learn, not cause more confusion.

* Understand the Differences Between Graphing Calculators *

Even if you limit yourself to the Texas Instruments brand, you can choose from a variety of graphing calculators to meet your child’s needs. The most basic graphing calculator, the TI-73, costs around $80 and can be a good first calculator for middle school students. High school students are often better off with the more powerful TI-83 Plus, which can often be found for around $100. More advanced graphing calculators, such as the TI-Nspire or TI-89, are better suited to college bound students, particularly those who plan to study higher maths.

Texas Instruments provides useful information about all of their graphing calculators online, including a “Which Calculator is Right for Me” page that provides a chart of the features available with each calculator. The chart also lists the recommended calculators for specific math courses and which calculators are approved for various standardized tests (SAT, ACT, etc.).

Graphic calculators are an important tool for students and are a must for taking standardized tests such as the SAT. Talk to your child’s teacher and do your own research and you will quickly learn how to pick the best graphic calculator for your child.