Best graphing calculator

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Graphing calculators can perform all the functions a scientific calculator can, plus graph lines, solve equations and find intercepts.

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Which graphing calculators are best?

The best graphing calculator 

If you’re taking an algebra, geometry or calculus class, your instructor will likely require a graphing calculator for your course. A graphing calculator is an essential tool for visually understanding the lines of equations and their graphical behavior.

Aside from graphing functions, graphing calculators can range in ability and can sometimes perform trigonometric functions, statistical analysis, 3D-modeling and more. For a range of functions, high-resolution LED display and a long battery life, the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II is the top choice. 

What is a graphing calculator? 

Graphing calculators are powerful, programmable handheld computers. 

Unlike less advanced calculators limited to basic arithmetic operations, a graphing calculator can perform calculations on multiple equations simultaneously. It can also plot the solutions of equations on coordinate planes and perform advanced operations and functions on the graphs of lines. 

The functions and features of a graphing calculator make them ideal for visualizing mathematical concepts graphically, rather than strictly algebraically. For example, a graphing calculator can easily show you the difference between how linear functions and quadratic functions behave. As a tool for visual learning, graphing calculators help supplement all levels of math learning. 

What to know before you buy a graphing calculator

CAS vs. non-CAS graphing calculators

A CAS (or computer algebra system) graphing calculator is capable of performing operations like factoring, simplifying roots, integration, evaluating factorials for their precise solution and solving for the roots of a function. These operations can be time-consuming when done by hand. 

If your course requires you to show your work when performing these operations, a non-CAS calculator is likely sufficient for your purposes. A non-CAS calculator can assist you in performing the calculations necessary for the symbolic operations above.

Course requirements

If you’re buying a graphing calculator to satisfy the requirements of a specific math course, be sure to select a model that’s accepted by your teacher or professor. This information is often listed on your syllabus. If not, ask your instructor directly which models are acceptable before you buy. 

Display

Some graphing calculators have backlit screens featuring multiple colors and high resolution. While not necessary and often pricier than more basic display options, these LED displays are nice to have, especially if you use your calculator during study sessions with limited light.  

What to look for in a quality graphing calculator

Battery life

Many graphing calculators include a rechargeable battery, which can be plugged into a power source and recharged. Look for a graphing calculator with positive reviews for both battery life and recharge time. 

Lower-end graphing calculators may use AAA batteries, which can be costly if you use your calculator often. It’s best to avoid calculators which rely on disposable batteries alone. 

Functionality 

Graphing calculators with advanced functions like animated plot points, spreadsheets and statistical capabilities are ideal for professionals or students in advanced math courses. 

Memory

Select a graphing calculator with memory to store the functions and equations you use the most. Built-in RAM is especially important for students in advanced math courses who frequently perform complicated calculations they’d like to store for future use. 

How much you can expect to spend on a graphing calculator

Graphing calculators range in price from around $60-$300, with those at the bottom of the range accomplishing basic graphing needs, but lacking in high-quality displays and extensive functionality. Basic models work well as an inexpensive option for high school students who are just getting started with graphing functions. 

For $130-$200 you’ll find graphing calculators with good battery life, LED displays, fast processing and rechargeable batteries. 

Graphing calculator FAQ

What is a graphing calculator? 

A. Graphing calculators are calculators with all the operations of a basic arithmetic calculator as well as a scientific calculator, plus the ability to perform complex equations and to plot graphs. 

How can I use a graphing calculator to get a better grade in my math class?

A. Graphing calculators are ideal for gaining a visual understanding of the qualities and behaviors of graphs. Rather than plotting the equations of lines by hand, a graphing calculator will allow you to quickly plot multiple graphs and solve for their intersections. Aside from their visual learning benefits, graphing calculators allow you to quickly perform basic arithmetic operations like addition and subtraction. 

What’s the best graphing calculator to buy?

Top graphing calculator

Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II

Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II

What you need to know: This is the standard for functionality and ease of use in graphing calculators, coming from a trusted brand. 

What you’ll love: It has a gorgeous backlit and full-color display. It’s customizable and feature-rich and approved for use on the PSAT, ACT, SAT and ACT. It’s great for higher-level math and engineering students.

What you should consider: Some users find getting to know the features on this calculator tricky, and it may come with a learning curve. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top graphing calculator for the money

Casio fx-CG500 PRIZM CAS

Casio fx-CG500 PRIZM CAS

What you need to know: This is a graphing calculator with versatile computing skills and a stylish design. 

What you’ll love: It is ideal for tech-lovers because its calculator features a PC-like, digital interface and USB port connectivity. It is a full-color LCD touchscreen with stylus included. It also includes advanced functionality like 3D-graphing and geometry operations. 

What you should consider: For users accustomed to the wide viewing screen on most calculators, the thin and long interface on this calculator may feel limiting. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Color Graphing Calculator

Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Color Graphing Calculator

What you need to know: This is a backlit graphing calculator with high-resolution display and a lightweight, slim design available in a range of colors.  

What you’ll love: This is an easy-to-navigate graphing calculator. The exceptional battery life lasts up to a week of regular use for some users. Texas Instruments offers a phone app user’s manual for learning the extensive advanced functions on this calculator. It is approved for use on the SAT and ACT. 

What you should consider: Some users find the range of functions on this calculator overwhelming. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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