The era of schoolchildren being forced to buy crappy $100 calculators is nearing its end

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Just spent $120 on one for my oldest son who is a junior now. I asked “Wait…you have a chromebook…why can’t you use some add on or software on that?”

not allowed. wtf is this stupidity?!


Capitalism sees students like it sees everything else: as cash cows to be milked to the last drop.


Not that big a 5507, really.


Desmos is a fine easy-too-use online calculator with four-function, scientific and graphing interfaces depending on your needs, but bear in mind that it’s not open-source (they don’t release the source code).

Here are a few of the open-source options.

Not on that list is NumWorks, an open-source graphing calculator written in Python with the source code available on GitHub. Anyone who knows Python (among the most widely known programming languages on Earth) can make use of the source code for any operating system (and here’s a fully-functional browser-based emulator on their website with a GUI that mimics the physical calculator), but it’s specifically designed to run on a $100 piece of hardware (yeah, I know) and fills a niche for those who want a physical calculator based on open-source code.

One tactic Texas Instruments has used to maintain its monopoly and discourage schools from showing them the door is the use of TI-BASIC, an obsolete shitty proprietary variant of BASIC.


Don’t forget that just because you might not have a kid in school, in many cases the school budget covers the purchase of many of these devices, so you are paying for them in your taxes. I know my son’s old school used to always have calculators available for all the kids in class so they could keep theirs at home for homework. Maybe not highway-robbery level corporate welfare, but glad to see there is evidence it is coming to an end. From a parent who bought two of these for the kids over the years…


I’m flabbergasted that these are still being used. I’m certain with modern technology that no one bothers to learn to program solitaire or snake on these any more. I think I even had a lightweight Doom-like port on mine at one point.

Though I’ll bet if they’re the only devices allowed for tests, students still save crib notes on them.


I’m so old that differential equations was the only math class I was allowed a calculator, and even then, it was only useful for solving the likes of half-life problems.

Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we graphed functions by hand.


Personally, I love my old TI-84+. But yeah it’s ridiculous that they get away with selling them for $100 or more when my $40 watch has a color touch screen and a more powerful processor.



Back in my day, I wrote equation solvers on the calculator and would check my test answers with them.


I still have my slide rule from grade school. Can’t remember how to use it, but there’s no way I’m giving it up!

Can’t even remember anymore how to look up solutions with the log tables in the back of the textbook, come to think of it.


One of my favorite Golden Age short stories is The Feeling of Power. It inspired me to learn to use an abacus and slide rule even though by the time I was learning trig and calculus TI was already common place.

Come to think of it probably shaped my long-term views about the importance of technical literacy to a free and democratic society.


I thought I was doing my kids a favor – youngest is a senior in high school – so I used our group chat to text them a link to Desmos. Immediate response back from the youngest (who uses a calculator daily):

“this is COMICAL”
“bro we know”

So, apparently it’s only us olds learning about Desmos for the first time.


I went to bookmark it into my utilities folder where lo-and-behold it already resided. I must have bookmarked it years ago and forgotten about it. :crazy_face:


That is too funny!

And sounds a lot like my memory issues as well!!


thank god - I bought two rounds of these TI machines for my daughter, and at least sold the last one on eBay for a decent fraction of its cost…


I no longer have my trusty old TI-30 (original edition), which I used as a student in the late 1970’s. But no calculator I’ve had since has been any better. Didn’t do any graphing, but aside from that it was simple, powerful, and affordable.


I still have my old TI-85 from high school, and I occasionally use it even today. Since I went to school in Finland, we didn’t have to buy any particular graphing calculator, or indeed any if we didn’t want to, but the teachers (accurately!) told us that we really wanted one if we were doing extended maths and physics curriculum. It was definitely a good investment for me, at least back then. :slight_smile:


I still have a TI-52, bought after somebody stole me my TI-35. Not programmable but easy to use with its big keys. I’ve bought for 4,99 euro a cheaply made clone found in a supermarket bin.