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Buyer’s Guide: TI-84 Graphing Calculator

By Kathleen Cantor, 30 Jul 2021

Math classes can be daunting. From a young age, I knew I was going to enter one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) industries. I was able to get by a handful of courses without a calculator in my early high school career but the equations became harder and graphing them by hand became increasingly difficult. I knew I needed a calculator that worked as hard as I did. As a college graduate with a Bachelor’s in Science, I can safely say the TI-84 Graphing Calculator will be the saving grace that gets you through any math class. And I mean any.

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It’s easy to become overwhelmed navigating the buying realm of calculators with so many similar capabilities and functions, and it’s hard to know which calculator is going to fit all of your needs—present and future—for the best price. Below, we’ll explore the capabilities and benefits of the TI-84 Graphing Calculator.

Getting Started with the TI-84 in Algebra 1 & 2

In Algebra 1, you’ll first be exposed to variables. These are simply letters representing an unknown number. And you use these letters to solve problems. The Albert Team, an online learning application, lists the elements and expectations of Algebra 1 as “evaluating expressions, writing equations, graphing functions, solving quadratics, and understanding inequalities.”

Algebra 1 focuses on various topics such as linear, quadratic, and cubic equations. These can all be graphed on a coordinate plane. While Algebra 1 focuses on doing the same thing to both sides of the equation, Algebra 2 expands mathematical computations to logarithms, radicals, and rational functions as well as imaginary numbers. This is where you can utilize the TI-84 Graphing Calculator in full force.

The Texas Instruments educational website provides a multitude of resources and features of their calculators. They highlight capabilities such as plotting scatter plots of arithmetic sequences or exploring the area under a curve. You can calculate a percentage of standard deviations, even simulating a building surveyor by measuring angles and references points. The TI-84's design can jumpstart your understanding and development of graphing skills. You can carry those skills with you through any math class.

The TI-84’s Bread and Butter: Geometry & Trigonometry

Geometry seems intimidating because it’s really the first time you deal with shapes and how to calculate them. However, geometry and trigonometry can be, dare I say, incredibly fun. You’ll cover familiar topics like points, lines, planes, angles, perpendicular and parallel lines, and take them to the next level by putting them all together and create polygons like triangles, quadrilaterals, and circles. Geometry teaches how to measure line segments, find distances and midpoints, measure and classify an angle based on the measurements, and of course, utilize the Pythagorean theorem. You can do all of these things on a TI-84 calculator.

All you have to do is enter the data into the graphing calculator and the TI-84 will plot the shape for you. If you’re a visual learner like myself, this is extremely useful. Karen Campe, a teacher featured on T3, explains how the TI-84 has a library of ready-to-download files. They provide a shape you can modify, edit, and manipulate to construct a figure and explore its properties.

The TI-84 is also perfect for trigonometry. It's able to find sine, cosine, and tangent and plot them on a graph. The TI-84 also switches effortlessly between degree and radian mode with just the touch of a button so you don’t have to calculate it by hand.

Expanding the TI-84 to Pre-Calculus & Calculus

The TI-84 becomes absolutely essential while progressing through elevated math courses. Interactive Mathematics provides a great explanation of what calculus includes. It states, “Calculus is concerned with comparing quantities… like velocity, acceleration, current in a circuit [that] do not behave in a simple, linear fashion. If quantities are continually changing, we need calculus to study what is going on.”

The TI-84 is ready to provide solutions to these problems with the ability to calculate derivatives and integrals, apply derivatives to find the slope and inflection points of curves, as well as use integrals to find the area under a graphed curve. The online learning resource, Manning, gives an in-depth tutorial on all of the TI-84’s functions and capabilities.

Where to Buy a TI-84 Calculator

The TI-84 is available on Amazon. And while may seem more expensive than a regular old standard calculator, view it as an investment. Peter Balyta, the president of TI Education Technology, explains his calculators’ price point. He stated, “A TI calculator is a one-time investment in a student’s future that takes them from middle school math and science classes through college, as well as into the important exams they take along the way.” Go from all zeros to a straight-A hero.

Simply put, the TI-84 Graphing Calculator is one of, if not the most powerful tool on the market. It can handle a multitude of arithmetics from Algebra to Calculus and beyond. And the best part? You can probably have it shipped to your front door before your next math class.

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