CALCULATOR BUYER'S GUIDE
Note: For all courses phones, I-pods, cameras, and other electronic devices will not be permitted for use as calculators. You will need an actual calculator. Bring your calculator to class every day.
Algebra 1, AIMS 2
For these courses you will need a simple calculator. Just about any calculator will do (even one from the dollar store). I would highly recommend choosing a model with a square root key. If you are planning to take Geometry after these courses, check the guidelines below so you can get a calculator that will work for those courses as well. If you are planning to take Algebra 2, you might want to check those guidelines as well.
For this course you will need a scientific calculator. You will know your calculator is scientific if it has these keys: "sin", "cos", "tan". You don't need a graphing calculator (the ones with the larger screens) for this course, although if you are planning to take Algebra 2 in the future you might as well read the guidelines below and get one now. New scientific calculators usually run in the $10 to $20 price range, although I have seen them at dollar stores on occassion.
Algebra 2, Algebra 2/Trig, Advanced Math Topics
You will need a graphing calculator (the ones with the larger screens) for this course. Just about any graphing calculator will work, although I strongly recommend certain ones over others. The reason for this is that I'm much more familiar with particular models than other ones, so I'll be able to do a much better job assisting students using calculators that I am more comfortable using.
Most of the time I will be using a TI-83 for in class demonstrations. Students with these calculators will be able to follow what I'm doing exactly. Click on the pictures to see a larger image.
Just about any TI graphing calculator (TI-82, TI-83 TI-84, TI-85, TI-86, TI-89) will work fine. I'm not very familiar with the Titanium or Nspire editions (see the not recommended section below), so I have trouble helping students operate them. The functionality for different models will be slightly different, so make sure you have access to a manual. Find one online if you don't have it. Here is a link to get you started.
These graphing calculators will work, but you are going to be largely on your own figuring out how to use them. If you insist on using one of these, then you will definitely need a manual. My experience is that students using these calculators become very frustrated by wasting enormous amounts of time trying to navigate their calculators. I do not recommend the TI Titanium series, the TI Nspire series, or any Casio calculators.
Graphing calculators can be expensive, but there is no reason to pay full price for one. Check amazon or craigslist for used calculators, or ask friends and family members. I often use my older brother's calculator which he purchased in 1990 and it works fine for most applications.