For complicated math equations and problems, the best graphing calculator is the way to go. There’s no better, or more reliable, way to tackle statistics, algebra or trigonometry problems than with one of these, not to mention that they’re also an ideal miniature portable for engineering.
At some point, a math student will be required to know how to use a graphing calculator. This powerful handheld device can be expensive, but it can do things that lesser calculators cannot. If you or your child needs a graphing calculator for math class, you could be overwhelmed by all the choices.
Are you ready to buy a graphing calculator? check out our top picks. If you would like to find out more about graphing calculators in general, read our shopping guide.
What Does a Graphing Calculator Do?
Graphing calculators allow you to calculate statistics, and easily convert your results into a graph. Of course, plotting graphs is a highly important part of a graphing calculator. This allows you to work on the problem itself, rather than spending time working through the math. This may seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t learning the math itself the point? Yes, but even if you’ve mastered the skills, some equations can take a long time to work through.
The graphing functions and statistics are two of the main functions you’ll use as a student. You may also use them for calculus and trigonometry, in which case a CAS may help. Not all graphing calculators are equipped with a CAS. Make sure you know what you’ll be using your calculator, and whether or not you’ll need one with a CAS.
I mentioned that graphic calculators are programmable, so they can also be used to store data in case it is needed for an equation or graph later. Some researchers use graphing calculators alongside their other equipment. They plug into computers or other machines, and gather information that can later be accessed and factored into equations. Remember, graphing calculators can solve multiple equations at once so this can help save a lot of time and work.
5 Best Graphing Calculators of 2021:
When it comes to the best graphing calculators for high school and college students, you can’t beat the TI-84 series calculators. The latest model, the TI-84 Plus CE, has all the functionality you’d expect from a classroom graphing calculator but with a modern back-lit color screen and comes pre-loaded with several useful math applications.
It has a rechargeable battery that should get you about two weeks on a single charge, which will save you some extra cash on batteries for several years of high school, college, and graduate-level math courses.
- Back-lit screen
- Rechargeable battery
This is probably the first name many people will think of when mentioning calculators. I am sure we have all had a Casio. Some may have even had their calculator watches. Founded in Tokyo in 1946, they have become an enormous success worldwide.
When asked what consumer electronics they make, it is easier to say what they don’t make. Their product range is often basic but always efficient and always at a very competitive price.
This graphing calculator is what might be described as an entry-level machine. But nevertheless, it still has all the standard features you would expect to see. The Casio fx-9750GII is designed for student use from middle school through to college.
It has a display that is quite large and has a 21 character and 8 line view. It has an icon style menu that makes it very easy to use and a series of soft menus to give easy access to most functions.
Casio has attempted to add a little extra with this calculator. There is an intuitive design of software that encourages the student to grasp the mathematical concept involved. That is in place of just memorizing keys.
- Nice screen size
- Compact easy-to-carry build
- All the features you would expect
- Very cost-effective price
- At this price, nothing at all
Featuring added interactive visuals, easy-to-read graphics, and fast performance, the TI-Nspire CX II CAS uses new features to open up new understanding paths. Using an animated path plot, engineers or students can visualize polar, function, and parametric graphs as they are drawn in real-time. This calculator can perform computations and enter formulas, expressions, and equations with the proper math notation.
Using dynamic coefficient values, the TI-Nspire CX II CAS allows you to explore the direct connection between dynamic coefficients in graphs and equations. You can also create dynamic points quickly when defined by expressions, coordinates, and sliders, while tick-mark labels allow you to create visual contexts to promote understanding.
The TI-Nspire is an advanced graphic calculator with a full-color display and Computer Algebra System functionality. It also comes with a rechargeable battery that can last up to two weeks on just one charge. This lightweight calculator has a thin design with a touchpad that is easy to navigate and has 6 different graphs and 15 different colors to help differentiate the look of each graph that you draw.
- Wide range of modes and plot options
- Full-color display and rechargeable battery
- The touchpad is intuitive and easy to use
- Users were not fond of the touchpad
Fourth on our list is the HP Graphing Calculator. This calculator is made by a modern computer manufacturer, and they certainly know a bit about programming and hardware. It’s a calculator that’s versatile and meant to be used for simple and advanced mathematical computations.
HP’s long-lasting rechargeable battery is the primary feature. Unlike competing devices, the battery has a lifespan up to a month when fully charged. Keep in mind that you may run into the rare situation of your calculator losing power in the middle of an exam. Get in the habit of charging this calculator before your exam in order to maximize its performance.
Another flaw lies in its lack of a built-in 3D graphing system. 3D graphing is important as it allows the user to display accurate representations of their math computations. Look to purchase this calculator if you need a high-quality graph to demonstrate relationships between different algebraic equations.
The HP Graphing Calculator is a good pickup if you would like to learn something new or know how to troubleshoot on your own. You’ll be rewarded with a powerful, fast, and sleek looking graphing calculator that you can use throughout the duration of your academic career.
- Rechargeable Battery
- RPN Mode Calculator
- Fast Graphing
- Responsive Interface
The TI-89 Titanium has been around for a long time. It predates the TI-Nspire line by many years and is a rock solid calculator. For many years this was my favorite graphing calculator. It has an intuitive menu system, 3D graphing, the ability to add apps, a CAS. It has been a “go to” for calculus students and SAT students for more than 10 years.
In recent years the TI-Nspire CX CAS has passed it up for me as my favorite overall calculator. However, the TI-89 Titanium still has wide acceptance in many college math departments, and you want to pick a calculator that your professors are going to be on board with.
A word to the savvy shopper: Be sure you are getting the TI-89 Titanium, NOT the original TI-89. That is a much older relic and does not keep pace. It does not have some of the nicer features that the Titanium model has like the ability to add official apps from the Texas Instruments website and MathprintTM.
On the TI-89 Titanium, Mathprint will reformat your calculator code after you press enter to look like a math equation in a text book. Without it, it is harder to know if you have entered your calculations correctly.
- Perfect for pre-calculus work
- Some impressive features
- Note-taking and explanations
- Expensive compared to other calculators
How To Choose a Calculator
You need to know more than just how to use a graphing calculator; you have to be able to pick the right one! It’s important to keep in mind that online graphing calculators are not permitted for use on the SATs, ACTs, and other standardized tests. Many physical calculators are approved for test-taking, so if you do buy a physical one, check to make sure it is approved for use. If you do not buy a physical calculator, make sure to have a plan for when you take standardized tests, like renting or borrowing a calculator.
If you are not a math or science major, you may only use a graphing calculator for homework in a course or two to support you on equations or problems. In this case, an online calculator may be the way to go. For those courses, check with your teacher or professor to see if you’re able to use an online one in class.
You may also just find an online graphing calculator interface easier to use. Online calculators also allow you to save your work, and access it from any device through your account. If you are most comfortable being mobile instead of carrying around a graphing calculator just in case, online may be right for you.
CAS VS. NON-CAS Graphing Calculators
When comparing graphing calculators, you want to decide if you need one with a computer algebra system (CAS), which gives the calculator some additional features.
A CAS calculator performs much of the work automatically for the student. A teacher who wants to see a student’s work process won’t see it if the student is using a CAS graphing calculator.
The CAS graphing calculator can produce symbolic equations and symbolic results, simplifying equations and working with forms, rather than numbers. (This type of work generally isn’t required for students in the classroom, though. Instead, professionals or students in advanced college classes are likelier to need a CAS calculator.)
The CAS graphing calculator can expand and solve expressions, while returning all roots. It also can find the min, max, and zeroes for any function.
The non-CAS graphing calculator helps with calculations, but it forces the student to show his or her work. It creates fractional or decimal results by dealing with equations numerically only.
The non-CAS graphing calculator performs all of the calculations most students need for math classes. They’re most likely sufficient for any course other than advanced college courses for a mathematics major or graduate student.