Whether you’re a student, have a budding mathematician in your life, or you work in a job that requires complex graphing and computations, you likely know that graphing calculators are a must-have. From checking your work to comparing different scenarios, graphing calculators are just as relevant now as when they were first introduced back in the mid-1980s. Sorry, iPads and laptops, graphing calculators have still not been replaced.
While the style and look of graphing calculators have not changed much since they were first introduced more than three decades ago, math also hasn’t changed. Graphing calculators remain a staple in advanced math classes, as well as on the desk of professionals in engineering and finance. Though computers, tablets and phones can address basic math problems, graphing calculators continue to help teach and aid those working on more technical problems and issues.
What To Look For In A Graphing Calculator
For students, make sure the calculator you select is allowed in your classroom/exam. Most calculators indicate what exams they are approved for, but it’s always a good idea to double-check with proctors and teachers before test day.
The most advanced calculator isn’t always the best for your situation. A calculator that is beyond the scope of your class or profession may add more headaches and confusion than help.
Look at the power source for the calculator. If you’re someone who is good at remembering to plug in their devices, a rechargeable USB calculator may be a better fit for you. Otherwise, opt for a battery-powered calculator and pack a backup battery in your backpack.
How We Chose The Best Graphing Calculators
When it comes to calculators, they are not a one-size-fits-all product. We’ve included options for junior high, high school, and college classes, as well as options that are best suited for professional environments. All the calculators on our list are highly rated and have been on the market for years. We’ve also included a wide price range to ensure every student and professional can find a calculator that works for their needs and their budget.
Whether you’re heading back to school or you’re shopping for someone who is, we recommended including one of these graphing calculators in your backpack.
1. Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing calculator
Calculate real and complex numbers with up to 14-digit accuracy and ten graphing functions using the Texas Instruments Ti-84 Plus Graphing calculator. The TI-84 Plus can handle just about any function, fraction, and figure you throw at it, with 14-digit accuracy plus a two-digit exponent. Define, save and analyze up to 10 graphs at once and list store up to 999 elements or 10 50×50 matrices.
Pros: With more than 200 functions and a multi-line display and approval by the SAT, AP, PSAT, and International Baccalaureate boards, this calculator is perfect for college and high school students.
Cons: This calculator won’t work for engineering students (mechanical or electrical) or for science students (life, earth, and physical). The TI-84 Plus only has a black and white display.
2. Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Graphing Calculator
Boasting a 30 percent lighter and thinner model than previous editions, the Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Graphing Calculator comes with pre-loaded apps and images and is available in eight colors. It also has a significantly smaller memory than the TI-84 Plus CE, with 480KB ROM/24K RAM compared to 3 MB ROM/154K RAM. The TI-84 Plus CE is easily recharged with a USB cable and has built-in apps that extend its functionality. Like the TI-84 Plus, the TI-84 Plus CE is also approved by most testing boards. Also, like the TI-84 Plus, the TI-84 Plus CE is excellent for high school and college and can be used for biology, chemistry, calculus, trigonometry, linear algebra and more.
Pros: Unlike the older TI-84 Plus, the TI-84 Plus CE has a captivating optimal color display that brings graphs to life, making it easier to see grid lines and distinguish between graphs and plots with color-coded equations.
Cons: The TI-84 Plus CE has the same limitations as the TI-84 Plus and isn’t suitable for engineering and life science students.
3. CATIGA CS121 Scientific Graphic Calculator
For a graphing calculator that is affordable and still boasts several important functions and features, we like the CATIGA CS121 Scientific Graphic Calculator. The Catiga is a scientific calculator that enables students to display their work using graphs created by formulas. Over 280 functions are available, including fractions, complex number calculations and linear regression. A great option for high school students, the Catiga features a large 3 inch display and can be used for Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Finance & Business.
Pros: There are three modes featured in the Catiga, including Angular Measurement, Calculation and Display modes.
Cons: Batteries must be replaced frequently and the calculator is sensitive to drops and bumps.
4. Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator
Designed for high school students, the Texas Instruments TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator is perfect for algebra, trigonometry, stats, business finance, calculus, and chemistry. The TI-83 Plus has built-in memory storage of up to 10 matrices, 94 applications and features 14 interactive zoom features. The calculator includes TI-GRAPH LINK for Windows and comes with a unit-to-unit cable. An interactive equation solver is also included.
Pros: The LCD screen has a 64 x 96-pixel resolution and a split-screen that allows for graph tracing and table scrolling.
Cons: The TI-83 is not suitable for geometry, pre-calculus, college math or linear algebra, or engineering and life science students.
5. Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator
The Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator is an excellent option for students looking for a reliable entry-level calculator that can take them all the way through their middle school, high school and even some college-level courses. Using an icon-based menu, students can learn to access the functionality for common tasks, including independent and dependent values and graphing X=relations. An Interactive Equation Solver and a built-in graphing function for conic sections make this a great option for Pre-Algebra, Algebra I & II, Geometry, Trigonometry, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, Biology, Physics, and Business & Finance. A high-resolution LCD screen and high-speed CPU make it easy to quickly and clearly see graphs and calculations. The Casio, which is approved for use on PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, and ACT college entrance exams and AP tests, also has USB connectivity, enabling students to share their data.
Pros: The Casio features an impressive 200 hours of battery life.
Cons: The Casio arrives in plastic packaging that is extremely challenging to open.
6. Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS Color Graphing Calculator
For a calculator that can bring your graphs and functions to life, the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS Color Graphing Calculator is a splurge-worthy option. Full-color graphics are displayed in detail on the 3.5-inch screen featuring 320 x 240 pixels. The lightweight calculator comes with the TI-Inspire student software and delivers enhanced graphing capabilities. Users can choose from six different graphing styles and 15 colors to create unique graphs. The rechargeable calculator can last up to two weeks on a single charge and is easy to maneuver through functions thanks to touchpad navigation.
Pros: 3D graphing is possible and the computer algebra system allows for a deeper understanding of math and science.
Cons: The TI-Nspire has a high price point.
7. NumWorks Graphing Calculator
The NumWorks Graphing Calculator is a great option for high schoolers looking for a reliable calculator to help them in class, with homework, and during tests. This scientific graphing calculator can auto-calculate for y-values. The ergonomic design features three thematic areas, including a navigational area, advanced functions area, and a numerical keypad. There are six built-in apps and is designed to work for every high school math and science course.
Pros: The rechargeable battery on the NumWorks lasts for weeks on a single charge.
Cons: The calculator is missing some regression functions.
8. CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50 Color Graphing Calculator
The CASIO PRIZM FX-CG50 Color Graphing Calculator brings graphs to life thanks to its high resolution LCD display with over 65,000 colors. The Casio features a natural textbook display that makes it easy for students to check their work. Graphs are displayed in 3D and built-in conic sections provide added benefits. The icon-driven menu system is straightforward to navigate and picture plot allows users to learn from images. Statistics regression and graphical displays are impressive and appropriate for high school and college courses.
Pros: Durably made design with intuitive buttons that will be familiar to users who have previously owned Casio scientific calculators.
Cons: Students with teachers who only use TI calculators may struggle.