Why Graphing Calculators Still Have a Place in the Classroom

The technology in graphing calculators hasn't changed much over the years, and neither has their commanding role in high school math classes.

While digging around in my drawer the other day, I came across a blast from my high school past: a TI-84 Plus graphing calculator. While I haven’t used it since my pre-calculus days, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of reverence.

If you think about it, graphing calculators were really the original classroom tablets. Before I had my Kindle Fire, I had my TI-84 Plus. And back then, I was guilty of playing “Block Dude” and “Puzzle Frenzy” in class when I should have been graphing polynomials.

Despite competition from free smartphone and tablet apps like handyCalc Calculator, graphing calculators still have a place in the classroom.

While I’m a mobile kind of girl in many ways, I found three reasons why graphing calculators won’t be replaced as a classroom staple anytime soon.

1. Standardized Tests Require Graphing Calculators

These only allow certain calculators to be used for tests such as the AP, SAT I/II, and PSAT/NMSQT. Since mobile devices aren’t allowed during testing, those free calculator apps won’t do test takers any good. The reason most testing companies ban mobile devices is because of connectivity: By having access to outside resources, students would have the opportunity to cheat.

2. Calculators Are Less Distracting

Yes, there are games that work on graphing calculators, but those simple diversions are nothing compared with the time suck that can result from social media and text messaging.

3. Uniformity Facilitates Teaching

It is easier for teachers to teach when students are using the same device. This is why the TI-83 Plus and TI-84 Plus calculators have been classroom mainstays for so long. If teachers had to wrestle with different mobile devices in the classroom, they would have to learn a multitude of apps in case students had questions about using the devices.

Do you think graphing calculators will be replaced by smartphone and tablet applications anytime soon? And, more to the point, do you use calculator apps in your classroom?

<p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/laffy4k/418602591/sizes/o/" target="_blank">laffy4k/Flickr</a></p>
Dec 10 2012