I’m Ready to Talk About the TI Graphing Calculator

Okay, I am finally ready to talk about these calculators. Pictured to the right is the TI Graphing Calculator. Specifically it is the TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator, by Texas Instruments. It has been one of TI’s more popular versions over the years. If a person is taking any STEM courses in high school or beyond, then they are likely familiar with this calculator and/or some version of it. Most people will even make the argument that it is a necessity. Let me start off by saying that over the years I have truly developed mixed emotions about TI Graphing Calculators.

My first introduction to The TI Graphing Calculator was in high school, and it was the TI-83 Plus (pictured on the left). The calculator, by no intention of it’s own, became a road block for me in the late 90’s. The road block had nothing to do with understanding how to operate the calculator, but instead it involved the schools relationship with the calculator. Believe it or not, back then I was told by my instructor that I could not move on to the next level of math without it. It seemed ridiculous at the time, but I thought “it can’t be all that bad”. “I’ll just go pick one up at the local K-mart, or hopefully the Dollar store next to one of those cute little Casio ones that my dad had in the 80’s”. I was floored when I realized that the cost of the TI Graphing calculator back then was a little over $129.00. If you adjust for inflation over time in relation to now, then that would roughly be $215.96 in 2020. I mean at that price point we’re basically getting close to game console numbers back then. A lot of underprivileged kids didn’t even see their parents do that type of spending during Christmas.

That was it, just like that, I was done. At that time, there were no programs that provided those calculators to students and families who could not afford them. The kids who could not afford them were generally informed that they had already met their minimum high school level math requirements. The students were also told that they would not be able to keep up with the future higher level math assignments without the use of the TI Graphing Calculator. This seemed to be an acceptable and reasonable answer for students who couldn’t afford it, and their parents who likely never had exposure to higher level math. Neither knew what was on the other side of that wall. The statements were also coming from a source that was assumed to have put the best interest of the students first.

Little Bit of Honesty

Let’s be honest, in order to understand higher level math the TI Graphing Calculator is not needed. It can help can help us solve more complex problems but it is not needed. All around the world we give credit to Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for the formation of modern calculus as we know it today. A form of calculus they developed in the 1600’s. Newton was getting busy with calculus in his 20’s when the Bubonic plague was in full swing. He was likely sitting at home bored because he couldn’t go outside, and next thing you know he delivers a new theory of light, quantified gravitation, and calculus. We could only hope that there is some genius out there currently working on a new branch of math or something seemingly miraculous while we’re all locked down due to Covid-19. TI was founded in 1951, and the TI Graphing calculator was invented in 1990. Plenty of people passed upper division math courses prior to 1990, well before The TI calculator came onto the scene. Also, but jokingly, is there anything that your phone can’t do?

Great Marketing

The reality is that Texas Instruments has done a great job of aligning itself with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics over the last few decades. They’ve done such a great job that the use of their calculators is encouraged in lessons plans all over the country. TI is a business, so no one can truly be surprised that they are also fully invested in keeping their calculators and technology in classrooms today. TI offers services such as, Teachers Teaching for Technology (T3) which educates teachers on how to use TI products, and it also host yearly conferences for the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics. They even have a hotline 1-800-TI-CARES.

For Now, We Still Have to Play the Game

School are still not going to encourage sharing calculators because you can’t share them on a test, and no matter how smart your smart device is, the argument is that it is too smart, and may encourage cheating. The larger reality is that for the moment, we have to play the game and part of playing the game usually means that you have to get a graphing calculator (likely the TI Graphing Calculator). This is also a game where the scales are obliviously tipped to favor more affluent families and communities while creating a disservice to underprivileged ones. When expensive calculators at the same price point are mandatory for all students, regardless of family income levels, then it does create a disservice and penalizes underprivileged students. This is known by students and educators alike. Teachers in the past have reached into there own pockets, and even created gofundme pages for their students to get these calculators and other supplies. Surprisingly, the calculators are still priced north of $100 and TI Graphing Calculator technology has not changed much over the years. You can likely do more with your phone, tablet, laptop or some other smart device. Who knows how many more STEM professionals we would have in industry today if kids were not priced out of STEM courses for the last few decades by a calculator, in public school no less.

Acquiring a Graphing Calculator

If you are in a class where a TI Graphing calculator is mandatory, then the good news is that you can more than likely borrow one from someone who has had that class before. I got one years ago from a friend that took a calculus class in the mid 2000’s. She practically threw the calculator at me because she didn’t want to see it again. I realize that that is not always an option for those individuals who may be the first to reach a higher level of math in their specific social circles, but remember TI Graphing Calculators have been on the market now for decades. You can likely find one of them at a Goodwill or a Pawn shop. I definitively suggest checking there first. There are bunch of engineers and scientist out there that can not tell you where their old TI Graphing Calculators are because they probably never looked at them again after graduation, and their parents probably got rid of it anyway. By the way, I will gladly give away my TI-84 Plus to the first STEM Voodoo reader who asks for it. I only ask that you somehow convince me that it is required for your specific class, and that you intended on using it. It was gifted to me and I’d rather pay it forward than see it on Ebay or Amazon.

With all that said, if you need a graphing calculator and find the current TI prices reasonable based on your current budget, feel free to use the Amazon links below. If a TI Graphing Calculator is not shown in the links below, you can still click on any of the links and it will take you to the Amazon website where one can be purchased. I will also receive a commission on that purchase at no charge to you (just throwing that out there for transparency).

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