Four years in a row, Cemetech has brought you Back to School guides, helping you figure out the best graphing calculator to get for school and how to use it. In 2011 and 2012, we published trios of guides, showing you which calculator to buy, how to get programs and games onto your calculator, and how to learn to program your calculator. In 2013, we held your hand through Which Graphing Calculator Should I Buy?. This year, we are starting out with a guide to selecting from the baffling array of graphing calculators now available to high school and college students. We'll help you figure out which calculator is right for elementary school, high school, or college students, whether for yourself, your child, or your students.
Texas Instruments currently leads the United States graphing calculator market, and has the most widely-recognized lines of graphing calculators. Casio and HP also offer strong options. I'll take you through five popular models of calculators that you might be interested in getting: the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, the Casio Prizm, the TI-Nspire CX, the TI-Nspire CX CAS, and the HP Prime. All five of these calculators are accepted on standardized tests like the SAT; the non-CAS calculators are allowed on the ACT. All five are powerful, modern graphing calculators, and with a few small caveats, all would be appropriate for the average student. However, even among these top contenders, the playing field is hardly level. A note: for the first time, we will not be recommending the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition and the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition and TI-Nspire CX CAS would be the best TI substitutes, respectively.
:: The best for high school math and science: the recent TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition. The quintessential calculator for high school (and some college) math and science, now updated with a high-resolution color screen and a rechargeable battery. More details>>
:: Great for programmers and hackers, but not well-supported for school: the first semi-modern, color screen graphing calculator was the Casio Prizm, now about three and a half years old. More details>>
:: The TI-Nspire CX and TI-Nspire CX CAS are the latest in TI's Nspire product line; if you have an iPad, there's also the TI-Nspire Apps for iPad. Two color screen calculators that represent half of TI's "hero product" portfolio along with the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, which means extensive support and lots of programs and activities. The TI-Nspire CX is good for high school students, the TI-Nspire CX CAS for college and some high school students. Continue reading>>
:: The HP Prime, HP's first color-screen calculator, complete with a CAS and touchscreen, a unique graphing application, and an extremely fast built-in BASIC language. Shows great promise, although news of upcoming connectivity hardware and software has been slow to arrive. Continue reading>>
The Final Verdict: With more graphing calculator choices appearing and more options available to consumers, a better but more confusing selection now confronts students, parents, and even teachers. Continue on to the full article to read in-depth reviews of each of these five models, plus a recap simplifying which calculator you should get.