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TI-NSpire: The Most Powerful Calculator

By Kathleen Cantor, 30 Jul 2021

The TI-NSpire by Texas Instruments is arguably the most powerful and reliable calculator you can buy. The two different types of TI-NSpire—the CX II and the CX II CAS—are both great options for math students handling coursework or about to tackle national exams (SATs and ACTs).

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Who Is The TI-NSpire CXII Designed For?

With a little practice, anyone can use either CX II model, especially high schoolers and undergraduate students. Texas Instruments designed these models to be user-friendly, a gateway into the more complex graphing calculators used in intermediate and advanced college curriculum.

Can I Use My Calculator In Tests?

Many states allow it for state standardized tests as well. However, rules always change so it is a good idea to check with your local testing center first. In general, you can use the CX II for the following exams:

  • SAT
  • AP
  • IB
  • ACT (not CAS model)

CX II Specifications

This calculator is relatively compact, so you won't have to worry about it hogging up space in your backpack. If getting down to the nitty-gritty details, these specs can help you compare this calculator to other options.

  • Weight: 12 ounces (that's not even a pound)
  • Dimensions: Length 7.5"; width 3.4"; thickness 0.6".
  • Memory: 90+ MB of dedicated storage memory and 64 MB of dedicated operating memory.
  • Connectivity: You can connect the CX II to a computer.
  • Rechargeable Battery: Fully charged, it will last for up to two weeks. The battery should last for around three years.

Many consider the connectivity and rechargeable battery to be the best aspects of the TI-NSpire CXII's design. It'll make homework easier, your work more visible on a computer, and give your calculator a longer life span. This also adds a level of sophistication to the calculator that you'd expect in college-level math supplies.

The CX II can perform a lot of math tasks and lends itself to use in other fields. Texas Instruments says of the CX II CAS:

"The TI-NSpire CX CAS graphing calculator provides the algebraic capability to symbolically solve equations, factor and expand variable expressions, complete the square, find antiderivatives, computer limits, and exact solutions in irrational forms, making it a robust hands-learning tool that satisfies math and science curriculum needs from middle school through college."

The practical use of both versions extends far beyond education, which is a great sticking point for those who want to pursue math, engineering, or other math-heavy career paths. You can learn how to use the calculator in the classroom and apply it to future work.

Is The TI-NSpire CX II Expensive?

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High-end graphing calculators are expensive—something to be aware of if you're trying to convince your parents that it's a good purchase. Typically, you'll pay somewhere around $170 for your CX II. But remember that you're are investing in an invaluable tool that will last through your high school and college years.

Don't be afraid to ask classmates who have a TI-NSpire what they think. Chances are, your math instructor will have one as well. They might let you take it for a test run.

What's the Difference Between The CX II And The CX II CAS?

The CAS uses a Computer Algebra System that allows it to perform algebraic operations. The CX II can't do this. As a result, you can't use the CAS model in ACTs. In general, there are three main differences between the two versions.

1. Images

You can import digital images to the CX II. This means, if you wanted to, you could import an image of the Empire State Building and overlay it with graphs and equations. A great option for creating eye-catching images for your math or science project.

2. Notation

The CX II models have integrated mathematics templates that allow you to enter mathematical expressions and view formulas, stacked fractions, and symbols exactly as they appear in your textbook or test paper.

3. Drop-Down Menus

These menus on the CX II are easy to use and help you navigate around the calculator. You can create and save documents the same way you would on your laptop.

Practicing With Your TI-NSpire

Although the TI-Nspire range is user-friendly, you don't want to use it for the first time when you're taking a test. There's an expected learning curve with both of these models. However small the curve may be, you don't want to be up the proverbial creek without a paddle in the middle of an exam. Try asking your math teacher to show you how to use the calculator first.

If you don't have much opportunity to practice using your calculator in class, check out this introduction to analytic geometry. Here, you can find a clear explanation of plane analytical geometry and many examples that will give you opportunities to practice with your TI-NSpire.

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The TI-NSpire is a powerful calculator for powerful problems. If you know you can use it all throughout college or pass it down to your sophomore sibling, it's a smart investment.


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