Calculators

 
Updated: 17 August 2005

We will often do in-class exercises, so you should bring a calculator to class every day.

Exams are written assuming you will be using a basic scientific calculator.
You may not share calculators during a test, so come prepared.

A cell phone is not a calculator, it is an illegal electronic device that may not be used during an exam. If you are "on call", you can leave your phone on my desk during the test. Otherwise, turn it off. Remember: If you answer your cell phone, I pick up your test.

I only want to see naked calculators on your desk during exams.
Remove the cover from your calculator and leave it in your backpack.

Calclulator Suggestions

My main reason for providing this list is to encourage you to choose a good, easy-to-use calculator over ones that I believe to be junk without having to spend much money. (I put a list of bad choices at the bottom of this page, right after a list giving price comparisons for four reasonable choices.) If you own a TI-30 Xa, I strongly suggest you throw it away (or give it to a person you dislike) and replace it with one of these.

If you spend more than $20 for a calculator, you are buying more calculator than you need for this class. If you spend more than $100 for a calculator, you are probably buying one that is illegal to use in this class. (See below.)

Illegal calculators

You may not use the TI-84, TI-85 or TI-89 or similar calculators on tests. Doing so will be considered cheating under the TCC honor code, and appropriate action will be taken.

If you want to use any 'high end' calculator other than a TI-83 on a test, you must bring it and all its documentation to my office before a test so I can check out what it can do. In practice, if you paid more than $100 for it, you probably cannot use it. I might add that if you can afford to buy one of the calculators listed in this section, you can afford to spend $15 to buy one like everyone else has.

Calculators to avoid:

My experience with students trying to use the TI-30Xa indicates that it, and other one-line calculators that implement parentheses in the same way it does, should be avoided at any cost. Students have trouble verifying complex calculations when the sub-expressions are evaluated as soon as the parentheses are closed, which is the way most of the one-line calculators work.

I do not allow the Silver Edition TI-83 because it has built into it some things that you are expected to know or know how to find from the constants and info sheets given to you on the exam. (If you want a cool look, consider the blue or purple versions of the TI-83 that Target was selling in fall 2002 and that Staples carried in fall 2003.)

The TI-86 is also forbidden because of some automatic features it has that other calculators do not have. The same statement applies to the TI-85.

The standard calculator at TCC:
TCC math classes, starting with college algebra and continuing through calculus, require the TI-83 Plus or its almost equivalent, the TI-83. Because we will not need to use the graphing features to solve any problems in this class, the TI-83 calculator is not required for this course and I will not teach assuming you have it. You can do all of the calculations on a much cheaper calculator, which happens to be what I do. However, I might sometimes use the TI-83 with a projector to show how to do a calculation (particularly ones that students with a TI-83 often get wrong). Owners of other calculators will have no problem following these examples on their calculator.

Note: At present I do not allow formula sheets and, as a result, storing formulae in your calculator is also a violation of the TCC honor code. I reserve the right to check and/or clear the memory of a TI-83 before or during a test. (If you are taking a statistics class, be forewarned that the "seed" for your random number generator is cleared if I reset your calculator before a test, as I am likely to do.) If there are programs you have in yours that are used in other classes, save them on a computer or another calculator, or consider one of the options below.

Much cheaper alternatives:
Even if you have a TI-83, you might want to get one of these other calculators as your emergency backup or because (in some cases) it is easier to use for simple calculations than the fancier ones. However, I have not used some of these, so you should check out its functionality before buying one. For reference, I also give some fairly recent prices at Staples. Advertised prices at Office Depot are similar to these.

In general, it appears that the 2-line calculators that have trig functions available as primary functions on the keypad are all adequate for essentially everything that we do.
Note: Be sure you know how your calculator handles a unary minus (negative sign) in conjunction with the x2 operation. You might be surprised at the result; some out there will give an algebraically incorrect answer. [The correct answer to -32 is -9.]

Calculators to avoid:
My experience with students trying to use the TI-30Xa indicates that it, and any calculators that implement parentheses in the same way it does, should be avoided at any cost. Students have trouble verifying complex calculations when the sub-expressions are evaluated as soon as the parentheses are closed, which is the way most of the 1-line calculators work.

My judgements on the last three are based on the package info; if you know otherwise, please tell me and I will correct my list.

 
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