- From: John Grant
- Date: 23 February 1999
- Subject: What calculators do you recommend?
I am starting a maths course this semester. Can you recommend what calculator I should buy?
Maths Help suggests:
You did not tell us anything more about yourself or what course you are starting. Since there
are so many different types of calulator on the market, we cannot give any specific advice.
The best thing would be for you to ask the teacher of your maths course what he/she
recommends. There might be a particular model that the teacher will be using for demonstration
purposes, so getting one of those would be a good idea. Also, some schools and colleges have an
arrangement to bulk buy calculators and pass the savings on to the students. Your teacher will
be able to tell you if that is the case.
However, there are some pieces of advice regarding calculators which are generally accepted,
and we list them below:
- For GCSE Maths courses, you should get yourself a calculator which has
the three trigonometric functions (sin, cos, tan) and a square root button.
Other features which are considered useful are a button for inputting fractions and a
basic statistical mode for evaluating means and standard deviations.
All of these
features will be available on the simplest "scientific" calculators. You should not have to
spend much more than about £8 for one of these.
- For A-level Maths most teachers recommend a good graphical calculator.
These have a large screen where graphs can be plotted (there is a lot of function graphing in
an A-level course). Such graphical calculators will generally have all the functions keys you
will need. They are usually also programmable, which may be useful.
Nowadays pocket calculators are coming onto the market with the ability to carry out algebra.
These are currently not allowed in A-level examinations. (However, they are useful as a tool to
check your work and to investigate algebraic manipulation, if you can afford one in addition to
your mainstream calculator.)
- For vocational courses (GNVQ, BTEC etc) it really depends what your main vocational
area is. For example, Engineering courses may include work on complex numbers. Business
courses may require additional statistical functions. Again, ask your teacher or lecturer
what they recommend.
- You will also want to consider whether you prefer a solar-powered model. This will save on
batteries in the long run if you plan to use your calculator a lot. If you have the choice, buy
a model that has a rigid case, to protect it from knocks. And make sure you keep the reference
manual that comes with it. It might look boring, but it will save you a lot of time if you have
to learn to use the more advanced features.
The three big calculator companies are Casio, Sharp and Texas Instruments (although you can
buy other brands of the simpler models). We do not wish to show any favour by specifying any
particular make (although if any of the companies would like to sponsor the Maths Help
website, we might give them a special mention here!!)
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