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How to Choose the Right Calculator

How to Choose the Right Calculator

Looking for the perfect calculator for your child for back-to-school? Calculators have greatly advanced over the years, and to help us find the right one for back-to-school we enlisted the help of Tom Reardon, an award-winning math educator with thirty years classroom experience. He also works closely with Texas Instruments on classroom activities and education initiatives and shared his insight on purchasing calculators for your kids.

Momtrends: What are the best calculators for kids under 10?

Tom Reardon: I love the TI-10! Besides being "a calculator", it also cleverly assists students to understand place value. It has a two line display that is important for young kids to see the expression and the answer at the same time. The TI-10 and TI-15 have game-like features where students have fun while learning math. Using the problem solving feature, students have access to electronic flash cards for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They are also prompted to find the missing number in questions like: 5 + ? = 13.

Momtrends: How is Texas Instruments different from other brands out there?

Tom Reardon: Texas Instruments is different from other calculator brands because they provide teachers with technology and thousands of real-world activities for middle school through high school math and science subjects. These activities are created by teachers, for teachers and can be downloaded free from and TI also developed the STEM Behind Hollywood program to get students excited about STEM education and careers through topics they see in movies like zombies, forensics and outer space. When kids can connect with the subject matter, they are more engaged in learning!

Momtrends: How have calculators changed in the past 5 years?

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Tom Reardon: Over the past 5 years, TI graphing calculators have added cool features like color screens and rechargeable batteries, but I think the most important change was introduced by TI-Nspire CX. Its built-in tools for statistics, geometry, and spreadsheets make it more like a handheld computer than a traditional graphing calculator. Students can even attach probes in their science classes to collect real world data, like temperature or pH, for labs. In this regard, TI-Nspire technology is much like the tools students will be expected to know how to use in college and future careers.

Not only is TI-Nspire available as a handheld that students can take into exams like the ACT and SAT, it is also available in computer software and Apps for iPad. With the TI-Nspire Apps, students can take a photo with the camera on their iPad and overlay a graph to make mathematical connections with the world around them.

Momtrends: How can they be used to enhance the classroom experience?

Tom Reardon: The classroom experience is enhanced when each student has his/her own TI-Nspire handheld because the student can work at his/her own pace. If your son/daughter “gets it” right away, he/she can move on. If he/she needs more time and practice, the teacher can give them additional activities to explore, investigate and discover the math and science concepts.

The classroom experience is further enhanced using TI-Navigator. This wireless system connects each student’s device to the teacher’s computer, so every student gets a voice. The teacher can send out Quick Polls during class to gauge student understanding or let a student project his or her own TI-Nspire screen from their desk and lead the class. This experience is so different from what can be done in a traditional classroom where students mainly watch, listen, and take notes.

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