Education Technology

The Top 10 Questions Parents Ask about Graphing Calculators

1. What is a graphing calculator?

A graphing calculator is a learning tool designed to help students visualize and better understand concepts in mathematics and science. It allows students to make real-world connections in a variety of subjects. As they gain a deeper understanding of the material, students acquire the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need to attain greater academic success.

2. Why do teachers use graphing calculators in class and recommend them for home use?

Students experience proven academic advantages when using a graphing calculator in the classroom and at home. Independent studies† indicate what many teachers know from experience - that the use of graphing calculators helps improve the mathematical skills of students and their attitudes toward mathematics. Further research† shows that the use of graphing calculators increases the level of achievement among students who have a personal graphing calculator for use outside of class and for homework.

3. Is a graphing calculator just an answer box?

No. Graphing calculators require students to apply their understanding of a concept in order to effectively make use of it. A graphing calculator gives students the ability to take an active role in how they learn.

4. How will a graphing calculator help my child understand math and science better?

A graphing calculator can help students build the skill sets to perform better in mathematics and science. It challenges students to work out mathematical problems by visualizing them. When students can see expressions, formulas and graphs on screen, they are able to explore concepts and make connections that lead to a deeper understanding.

5. In what classes can a graphing calculator be useful?

Graphing calculators are integrated into the instruction of many math and science courses, including Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry, Precalculus, Calculus, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Statistics, Business and Finance. Parents can check with teachers to find out their graphing calculator policy.

6. Can my child use a graphing calculator on tests?

Yes, in many instances. Many teachers allow students to use graphing calculators on in-class tests. Graphing calculators are permitted or even required on many college entrance exams and state exams. Parents can ask teachers about their specific testing policy.

7. Can my child use a graphing calculator on the SAT* and ACT?

Yes. Graphing calculators are permitted or even required on SAT*, ACT, PSAT* and AP* exams.

8. Do I need to buy a new graphing calculator every year?

No. A graphing calculator is an investment that a student can use year after year - in middle school, high school and throughout college. Most TI graphing calculators, for example, come with upgradeable features and sizeable memory. Helpful programs and applications can be downloaded to a graphing calculator, just like a computer.

9. Are graphing calculators a worthwhile investment?

A graphing calculator is not simply an investment in technology, but in student achievement. A quality graphing calculator can cost less than an MP3 player or a pair of high-end athletic shoes. What's more, graphing calculators are programmable and can be used from middle grades through college and beyond.

10. Why should my child own a graphing calculator?
There are many advantages to student ownership. Owning a graphing calculator extends the learning process beyond classroom instruction to further study at home. It allows students to use their graphing calculator at any time to complete homework assignments, review their work, study for tests and even explore math and science topics on their own.

† To review complete research articles and other detailed references about TI graphing calculators and educational technology, visit

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