With the start of a school year, students and parents rush to find the best supplies, with calculators being an essential tool. Texas Instruments, a long time leader in scientific calculators, has several excellent choices for middle school and high school students. The new TI-84 Plus C is a well-rounded calculator with many great features. Now with a high resolution, full-color backlit screen, the calculator has color-coded points, graphs, and equations, making the images easily distinguishable and helping to reduce eye strain. The addition of the colored screen hasn’t taken anything away from the calculator’s performance. Similar to older TI-84 calculators, it takes minimal effort to learn and search through the calculator. The built in MathPrint lets the user view math symbols, stacked fractions and formulas just as they are presented in their textbooks for ease of instruction. In addition to the efficient functionality, the calculator can be used for multiple subjects including algebra, biology, and calculus. The TI-84 Plus C comes with the ability to run apps like App4Math, Vernier Easydata, Probability simulator, and Cell Sheet. These apps can solve geometry and algebra equations, graph functions and shapes, simulate probability, and create spreadsheets. In addition to the TI-84 Plus C’s great functionality, the calculator also comes with a rechargeable battery, which helps save money over the life of the calculator and makes it less likely that your calculator will go dead at an inopportune time (like while taking a test). A fully charged battery can last for up to a very respectable 100 hours. Overall, the TI-84 Plus C’s many features and applications make the calculator a useful item for middle school and high school students. If you think the TI-84 Plus C is the calculator for you, we recommend you pick one up at Amazon here: TI-84 Plus C
Much like the TI 84 Plus C, the new TI-nspire cx by Texas Instruments provides a fantastic choice for students and teachers. The new TI-nspire cx with a full color screen capable of 3D imaging can be used for both math and science classes with apps like the Calculator, the Graph maker, and the notes maker. These apps solve equations and functions, plot and draw equations, make functions, draw images and create animations, draw out spreadsheets, write down notes, and summarize and analyze data. Another cool feature included in the TI-nspire cx is called “multiple representation”. Essentially, the calculator is capable of displaying a function in multiple forms such as an equation, graph or table. Through dynamic linking if a student changes the function in one form, each of the other representations automatically incorporates the new information. When a student is having a hard time grasping a new concept this feature provides them with a multiple ways of looking at the problem and hopefully at arriving at the solution.
The TI-nspire even allows students to create “documents” on the calculator or transfer files like excel spreadsheets (or images) from a computer to the TI-nspire. We really like this feature because it encourages students to familiarize themselves with excel, which we think is a great skill to learn early. It also makes it easy for students to begin a project on the TI-nspire cx but finish it on their home desktop, or visa vera. Despite the TI-nspire’s many features, the powerful ARM chip powering it, never lags. While the TI-nspire cx is packed with features, we found it to be much simpler and more intuitive to use than the older TI 84 Plus C. There is a new clickpad with trackpad which makes it easier and simpler to navigate through the calculator. Another enhancement over previous TIs is the revised menu based navigation, which is more familiar to modern computer users than the old TI-84’s interface. These new additions make the calculator more user friendly, especially for people who are not already familiar with the TI-84’s interface. In every category the new TI-nspire is smart choice for buyers. If you think the TI nspire cx is the calculator for you, we recommend you pick one up at Amazon here: TI-nspire cx.
While both the TI-84 Plus C and the TI-nspire cx are great options, at the end of the day, the TI-nspire cx is one step better in every category. You can’t go wrong with either but given that a graphing calculator is a major investment in a student’s education and given that it will likely last them through all of middle school, high school and possibly even through some college classes, the $20-$30 dollar difference between the two options is fairly insignificant. Spring for the TI-nspire cx, your student will be glad you did for the next 5-10 years.