For the sixth year in a row, Cemetech is excited to bring you a Back to School guide, helping you figure out the best graphing calculator to get for school and how to use it. In both 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, 2014, and 2015, we held your hand through Which Graphing Calculator Should I Buy?. This year, we once again present 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 primary school, high school, or college students, whether for yourself, your child, or your students.
The landscape of available graphing calculators in 2016 is largely the same as in 2015, so we based our selections on the same democratic vote by Cemetech's we conducted last year. In that poll, we asked our members to vote on the best calculators in three categories: (1) High School Math and Science; (2) CAS (College); (3) Programming.
As you'll see in the discussion below, the recent TI-84 Plus CE released last year and updated in gold and white this summer was a very popular contender. TI's TI-Nspire CX CAS and HP's HP Prime also earned high marks. All three of these calculators are accepted on standardized tests like the SAT, and of the three, only the TI-84 Plus CE is allowed on the ACT. Like last year, we're no longer recommending the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition and TI-84 Plus Silver Edition, both of which have been effectively banished to obsolescence. Although the TI-Nspire CX is a fairly popular high school math and science calculator, we feel that the TI-84 Plus CE is a better, easier-to-use choice, and the general student, teacher, and programmer consensus appears to agree.
If you (or your child) are an primary or high school student, your teachers may recommend a TI-84 Plus CE or a TI-Nspire CX, in which case you should follow their advice. Remember, all models mentioned herein are accepted on the SAT, and most on the ACT, so none win or lose big on that count. For high school students getting a new calculator, the TI-84 Plus CE is our favorite choice.
If you're looking to take college classes in higher math, science, or engineering, the TI-Nspire CX CAS or the HP Prime are the calculator for you.
If you're a programmer, or you want to encourage your student to be a programmer, the TI-84 Plus CE is the best options. It allow BASIC, ez80 ASM, and C programming. The HP Prime also has a very fast BASIC language, and the Casio Prizm was the original C-programmable calculator.
Good luck with the hectic rush that is Back to School, and I hope this guide helped make at least one decision easier. If you need help picking a calculator, getting games and educational programs for your calculator and onto the device, or you want to learn to program, just stop by Cemetech and chat with us. We're always happy to help.
The Final Verdict: Now that the three major graphing calculator companeis all offer color-screen calculators, the quiet disappearance of the battery-conserving black-and-white graphing calculator has inexorably continued. Like last year, we are no longer recommending the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition and the TI-89 Titanium, as much as we respect those erstwhile models. Of course, if you already have a TI-83 Plus/TI-84 Plus (or Silver Edition) or a TI-89, you don't need to upgrade to a color calculator yet. If you need a new calculator, we recommend the TI-84 Plus CE, TI-Nspire CX CAS, or HP Prime. Read the full article for details on which of these calculators is best for you. »