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Discussion: All Tools on Calculator
Topic: Graphing calculators

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Subject:   RE: Graphing calculators
Author: Damon
Date: Jul 29 2005
I agree that the TI-84 Plus graphing calculator would be a good choice for
your son at this point in time.  However, depending upon which
mathematics/science courses and examinations he will be taking during his high
school years, you may wish to consider supplying him with a more powerful TI
model.  I also stress the importance of being able reason mathematically without
such powerful calculators, but I also realize that many curricula require their
nearly constant usage, and they can be extremely powerful TOOLS that supplement
and augment mathematical reasoning.

First of all, the TI-84 has a 96x64 pixel display while the TI-89’s screen
size comes in at 160x100 pixels.  While screen size may seem of little
importance, a larger one allows the user to enter more text without needing to
scroll as often; this is a nice feature for users who program and store text
applications in their calculators.

Second, while all of the calculators in the TI-84 series and above contain
huge amounts of mathematical capabilites built in, the TI-89 can handle
complex programs available for purchase from vendors other than Texas
Instruments.  These programs are particularly useful for advanced mathematics
and engineering students.

Third, the TI-89 (and above, which is not an issue in your case) have symbolic
manipulation capabilities that are not possilbe on the lower models without use
of additional programs/applications which partially duplicate this capability.
Symbolic manipulation allows the calculator’s operator to enter algebraic
expressions and get algebraic expressions as a result instead of only numbers
(VERY useful at levels of mathematics at and beyond algebra).  In fact, the
TI-89 can perform some differential and integral calculus symbolically, and
the TI-89 Titanium is even more powerful for this purpose (and will eventually
replace the TI-89).

Finally, the models all contain different processor speeds and varying amounts
of user-available RAM and flash ROM.  See for more information on these

The TI-89 is a more complex calculator, and is therefore more difficult to
master.  This is likely in your son’s favor, as experience has shown me that
students who start using this advanced model in middle school often become
extremely proficient on it during high school.  The payoff comes with the fact
that this is the most powerful model allowed on the SAT and on AP examinations
(it is  NOT permitted on the ACT), and mastery of this calculator may give your
son an edge on certain types of questions on these exams.

Your son won’t really “go wrong” with either the TI-84 Plus or the TI-89,
but the TI-89 may be a wise investment for him to grow into.  

Best of luck to him,

Damon Klein
Phoenix, AZ

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