Basic Calculators

Handheld calculators are those used for the simplest of tasks, because the operations that they can perform are the basic ones: Add, subtract, multiply and divide. In addition to these basic functions, other digital pocket calculators may have more advanced functions, such as options to make square roots, calculate percentages or do calculations with decimals. These calculators can run on batteries or on solar power and are ideal for heavy users who need just basic function.

Basic buttons:
A handheld calculator must have the standard buttons for the classical operations (add, subtract, multiply and divide), but also the ability to conduct operations with decimals (the point which separates the whole number of decimals) and store in the memory (M +, M-, MR). If the calculator is a bit more advanced, you can also calculate percentages and square roots, and switch between positive and negative numbers for the accounts. Other handheld calculators more designed for commercial and office use may include buttons to add or remove taxes, or to convert the local money to £.

Scientific Calculators

Scientific calculators are used to calculate advanced mathematics. Its screen can include multiple lines which enable you to work with large numbers, such as trigonometry calculations, square and cube roots and logarithms. It is not recommended for young children as the multitude of functions may over complicate and confuse them. When buying a calculator, you must consider whether the functions meet your needs of the user. For example, how many levels of parentheses it can support and how many items can be stored in its memory as well as the simplicity of its operations (Are you able to make calculations on base N? Does it have hyperbolic functions?). Note that scientific calculators usually have two lines, but more advanced versions have the technology to display the calculations as you would see in a textbook.

What buttons do they have?
Usually, when we see a scientific calculator, it can scare us when we see its many buttons, there are so many, what do they all mean!? However, we must think that these buttons are intended for mathematicians and we are not necessarily going to use them all, giving more importance to the buttons that indicate the unknown quantities (trigonometry in general) and the simplest functions. We must not forget that a scientific calculator can have hundreds of features, from the most basic ones to large calculations that can reach more than 99 digits.

Graphing Calculators

Graphing calculators are still the highlight of the mathematicians of today. Graphing calculators are basically complete calculators with a screen that will help us to visualize mathematical concepts and spreadsheets or graphs. We can classify a graphing calculator as a scientific calculator with a screen that lets you see graphics, but today is much more: Some have small HD screens, the ability to connect to the computer via USB, memory up to 100 megawatts and a CPU dedicated solely to the more complex functions of the calculator, that even some computers can’t do.

What they do?
Graphing calculators can display symbolic mathematical expressions, which can even be manipulated. These calculators can be programmed and, in fact, include many options for this, like the inclusion of SD card slots or USB cables. In addition, most new calculators can even make three-dimensional graphics (and in color), when you input just a few numbers. You can even connect with other computers or calculators, either via cable or infrared rays.

What calculator do I need?

By Age:
Obviously, it makes no sense to give a graphing calculator to an eight-year-old child, since they wouldn’t know what to do with it. So for children, the calculator should be basic, but always have memory buttons to perform constant additions. Some would recommend that when a student begins the secondary education, they should buy a scientific calculator, although it would depend on the student’s level in mathematics. What is clear is that if they choose to do mathematics, soon he will have to take a step up in the world of calculators, choosing those with more functions, such as fractions, double lines or one which permits you to modify the final result. For high school and college, we would recommend a more advanced graphing calculator, as you can handle statistical lists, several variables and memories. In addition, if the calculator is programmable, this would be good for the future, depending on which career do we choose and if it is oriented on the purest mathematics. In any case, there are some calculators with less complex features that can also do a good job. Nevertheless, if the career is wholly directed towards the world of numbers, trigonometry, graphs and statistics, is almost mandatory to improve the calculator to the limit.

By function:
Of course, whatever the age of the student is, no teacher should recommend calculators with fewer than ten digits of the display and unable to compute negative powers, no matter how cheap they are. Keep in mind that the most typical calculators among students are not always the best, so it is a good idea to consider the subject matter which will be covered in a mathematics course in order to choose a suitable calculator.  For professionals, a graphing calculator is always recommended with the best screen resolution available and, of course, programmable.