As students enter geometry, algebra, or calculus and higher they will need access to a graphing calculator. These are more powerful calculators with larger screens that are capable of rendering and showing the graphs of functions. Many models also feature the capability to determine the function of a data set and perform other complex mathematical calculations. Depending on the math class you or your young student are entering different calculators might be more or less appropriate for your level of experience with graphing calculators.
At the lower level, graphing calculators feature an easy-to-use and intuitive interface and button layout that makes it simple for novices to pick up and get the hang of. Top of the line calculators might feature high resolution and full-color screens that allow for graphing of multiple functions at once. Some calculators are also specifically approved for the SAT and other standardized tests which is important to keep in mind for high school students preparing for college entrance exams.
Below is a list of 10 of the best graphing calculators available and what their specific design is best for.
The first calculator in our roundup is the Texas Instruments TI 73. This is a simple graphing calculator that makes for a fantastic first experience for middle schoolers entering classes such as algebra 1, statistics, or the physical sciences. This calculator features a reasonably sized screen with a 64 by 96 resolution that allows students to begin to visualize patterns and analyze data.
The TI 73 has 32 kilobytes of random access memory which is ample for simple data sets. The calculator is about an inch thick, three and a half inches wide and 7.3 inches tall. It features an easy to use keyboard with fraction functionality. This model also features flash technology which allows for easy upgrading of the software for evolving curriculums.
Moving up from the TI 73 is the TI 83 Plus which is one of the most prolific calculators on the market and is the graphing calculator most commonly used in many schools. This calculator has an LCD screen which features an identical 64 by 96 resolution as the TI 73 which produces a clear image and makes it easy to read both numbers and graphs. This more advanced calculator is able to handle any high school level class and often higher including calculus, engineering, trigonometry, and even financial functions.
The calculator is approved for use on the SAT, ACT, and other standardized tests. The screen allows for simultaneous viewing of datasets and graphs making it easy for students to understand the relationship between number sets and patterns. The TI-83 Plus has the same dimensions as a TI 73 and comes in a simple gray design. This model has substantially more buttons on the front making it harder to use and not recommended as a first calculator for students in middle school.
Next on our list is the Casio fx-9750GII. This calculator’s functionality is somewhere between that of the TI 73 and TI 83 Plus. It can handle almost any function required in most calculus classes as well as display datasets next to their graph which is extremely useful when studying the relationships between formulas and their graphs. The calculator has a slightly simpler design than the TI 83 Plus but boasts more functions than the TI 73. This Casio calculator comes in three colors including blue, yellow, and pink and includes a cover that slides over the screen in the front when not in use.
Moving further up the scale is the Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus which is a highly capable graphing calculator great for any high school level class and many college classes. This calculator has 480 kilobytes of operating memory which allows it to calculate real and complex numbers with up to 14 digit accuracy as well as graphing up to 10 defined and saved functions and analyzing them all at once.
The calculator can store up to 999 elements in a list as well as up to 10 50 by 50 matrices. The calculator also supports a variety of graphing modes and dozens of pre-programmed functions. The TI-84 Plus is slightly larger, however, than the lower Texas Instrument models coming in at 2 inches in thickness, 8.75 inches long and 6 inches wide. The calculator is in a sleek black and gray color and requires four AA batteries to function.
The Casio fx-CG10 PRIZM is the first calculator on our list to feature a colored screen. Colored screens make it much easier to see different graphs when they’re overlaid and differentiate between different functions that are being shown together. This Casio calculator comes with a 3.7 inch full color LCD screen with a 384 by 216 pixel resolution that can display over 65,000 different colors.
This calculator features a unique almost cell phone like number pad making it easier for novice graphing calculator users to adopt as well as a simple interface on the home menu screen that is intuitive and easy-to-use. This calculator has 16 megabytes of operating memory capacity allowing it to run programs with fairly large data sets. The fx-CG10 PRIZM also boasts Casio’s picture plot technology which allows the graphs to be overlaid on top of real images to help facilitate mathematical learning. This calculator requires four AAA batteries to operate and can run for around 140 hours on a set of batteries.
Next up is an upgraded version of the TI-84 Plus, the TI-84 Plus CE. The CE version of the popular TI-84 plus calculator starts out its list of improvements by decreasing its weight by 30% over previous generations. Additionally, the calculator goes from 2 inches thick to just under 1 inch thick. The screen has also been upgraded to a backlit color screen allowing for easier differentiation between individual functions on a graph. Rather than AA batteries, the CE version uses a rechargeable battery that can be replenished using a USB cable.
This upgraded TI-84 Plus also boasts more operating memory than previous generations coming in at 3 megabytes. Despite the reduction in size and dropping weight the CE model of the TI-84 Plus still boasts all the functionalities of the original version making it perfect for calculus, algebra, geometry, statistics, as well as science or financial courses.
The Prime is the only HP calculator in our roundup but is arguably one of the best. This calculator features a full-color screen with a bright backlight making it easy to see in any conditions. The calculator features an easy-to-use interface with an easy to navigate application library that allows the user to scroll through and browse the calculator’s functionalities.
While not ideal for novice graphing calculator users the HP Prime boasts tons of functions and is relatively easy to use for how complex it is. It is also one of the most portable calculators on our list coming in at just over an inch thick, 3.4 inches wide, and 7.2 inches long. This HP calculator also comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery installed.
The top Casio model on our list is the fx-CG50 which features an incredible high-resolution full-color screen and tons of functionality. The screen is capable of displaying over 65,000 colors in very high resolution. It also boasts Casio’s picture plot technology allowing for the use of real-life images to enhancement mathematical learning. This Casio calculator is one of only a few graphing calculators that is powerful enough to perform 3D graphing functions which are essential in higher level college mathematics or science courses. The buttons are also well laid-out and easy to use making this one of the top calculators on our list.
The Casio fx-9860GII is arguably the best bang for your buck graphing calculator available. While it doesn’t have a color screen or 3D graphing capabilities it features all the functions you would need for algebra, geometry, calculus or most other classes that aren’t extremely high-level college courses. This calculator has 9 probability functions, unit conversion, can produce pie charts and a number of other impressive features.
The icon-based main menu of the calculator makes for a very intuitive and easy-to-use experience even for first time graphing calculator users. It runs on 4 AAA batteries and boasts 1500kb of RAM. It also has an LCD screen with backlight for easy viewing in most conditions.
The final calculator on our list is the Texas Instruments Nspire CX CAS. This is the top of the line calculator offered by Texas Instruments and features a 320 by 240 resolution screen that has full 16-bit color as well as 3D graphing functionality. The Nspire is capable of handling pretty much any class and is the best selling graphing calculator on Amazon. It features a rechargeable battery and can be loaded with data sets or even images from a USB cable.