Academic Subjects

How to choose a Graphing Calculator for Mathematics

One of the most crucial tools to help you survive the IB: Graphing Calculators (GDCs)! Whether you are taking Physics, Chemistry, Economics, or any other subject, it is important to make sure you are getting a graphing calculator that best suits your needs. Here, I wrote some tips to help make sure of that and narrow down some commonly used calculators by IB students (and teachers)!

Tip #1: Find a commonly used graphing calculator
Some mathematics textbooks like Haese & Harris often provide instructions on solving problems with widely used calculators. Haese & Harris also provides helpful graphing calculator instructions, which you can find here. By choosing those calculators, you get the chance to have a guided instruction and are one step closer to being a pro at using GDCs!

Tip #2: Enough online resources
Teachers only know so much about GDCs. Especially during online learning, you don’t get the chance to meet your teachers directly, so it might be harder for them to explain how to use a graphing calculator. Therefore, before buying a graphing calculator, make sure there are enough videos on YouTube to help you learn how to use each function. Many calculators do not have sufficient online resources for you to be able to learn how to use them, so be sure to do some thorough research before making a purchase!

Tip #3: IB graphing calculator guidelines
Almost every year, the IB publishes a new list of calculators that are/aren’t allowed during examinations. Find out about the graphing calculator guidelines for your examination session, and be sure you are choosing an authorised calculator! 

Some commonly used graphing calculators for the IB! (as of Aug. 2020)

1. TI-84 Plus CE

Available on Amazon for $118

Pros (+):
• Easy to operate + good for beginners
• Good amount of features (MathPrint feature available)
• Approved for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP tests
• Rechargeable battery
• High-resolution

Cons (-):
• May need to upgrade when in college, especially for majors like Engineering & Architecture

2. TI-Nspire CX II CAS

Available on Amazon for $118

Pros (+):
• Advanced features
• Best for long term use
• Full-color display
• Lightweight
• Wide selection of tutorials on YouTube

Cons (-):
• Price tag is a bit high

3. HP Prime Graphing Calculator

Available on Amazon for $139.99

Pros (+):
• Good design
• Touch screen
• Has the computer algebra system (CAS) feature
• Rechargeable battery
• Backlit color screen

Cons (-):
• Less people use the HP Prime compared to the other calculators mentioned (Harder to find resources & tutorials
• Reset button hard to press

Casio fx-9860GII

Available on Amazon for $77.19

Pros (+):
• Affordable price
• Clear display/ resolution
• Large buttons
• LCD backlight to increase visibility
• Comprehensive tutorials & resources are offered online

Cons (-):
• Shown in B&W
• May appear like an “old” calculator

Overall, there is no getting the ‘wrong’ calculator. Well, aside from choosing an unauthorised one… However, just a small reminder, students taking Mathematics: applications and interpretation both at SL and HL will rely more on calculators compared to Mathematics: analysis and approaches students. So make sure you’re going to have no problem learning how to use them, even though it takes some time to master it. Good luck!

You may also like…

• Bryan’s tips on what 5 mistakes IB students should avoid
• Yasmin’s take on how to stop procrastinating
• A guest writer’s post on the secret to scoring a 7 in IB


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