How to Choose the Right School Calculator

I’m sure you find yourself browsing through new technology from time to time. Keeping track of developments in smart phones, portable computers and other mobile devices is challenging, but it often seems like an absolute must for water cooler exchanges at work, locker room chats and poolside conversations. At a time when all technology seems to have the ubiquitous “calculator” feature, you might be surprised to know that calculators continue to have an important role in the education of today’s students.


With hundreds of options out there on the market, choosing the right model for your child is crucial. Here are seven tips to help you select the right school calculator to meet your child's needs.


1. Ask the Teacher

In the eyes of the teacher and, by extension the student, all calculators are not born equal. More often that not, teachers recommend certain models and types for specific reasons such as age appropriateness, ease of use, specific features or different functions that your child will be using in the classroom. In the world of calculators for the classroom, teachers know best! A subject like calculus is hard enough to teach without having to adapt the lesson plan to suit calculators whose functions may differ greatly from the ones the teacher may be using.


2. Pay Attention to Details

Teachers in the lower grades are often less exacting in their requirements. This gives parents and students a little more freedom of choice. If this applies to you, make sure your child can easily and accurately use the keyboard and read the display. For young kids prone to dropping things, make sure the housing is sturdy enough to handle a fall.


3. Do Your Homework

No matter how confident you may be about navigating through technology, take the time to look at your options online or plan for a little extra time in store. Even within calculator types, there are likely different models and prices available.


As with all technology purchases, explore guarantees and warranties that can make replacing calculators easier and less expensive. Most of the high-end models are built to last.


4. Notice the Display

Like in most technology purchases, we want a calculator to be easy on the eyes.  So you'll want to make sure that the screen is visually appealing for your child.


“Look for very clear graphics,” says Mark Kronenberg, founder of Math 1-2-3®, a math tutoring and test preparation company. “The user should easily and clearly see the area being filled in.”


If the same model comes in greyscale and color, get the color version for clearer reading.


5. Verify the Memory

Most graphing calculators include the same amount of memory (RAM), but the options vary widely in terms of flash memory. If you can afford it, get more memory to increase the number of equations stored and make processing faster.


6. Check the Buttons

More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to buttons on a calculator. Ideally, Kronenberg says, “fewer buttons are required to complete functions like calculating min/max and finding where the graph crosses the X-axis.”


At Staples, we advise parents to run a few equations - on graphing calculators, for example - to determine which is most appropriate for you and your child.


7. Plan Ahead

Although teachers provide a school supplies list at the beginning of the year, certain calculators are not allowed while taking exams. Before purchasing a calculator ask the teacher if the model that your child feels comfortable with will be allowed during examination period.


Though it can be intimidating to look at the large variety of features on such small devices, take heart. With a little preparation and user testing, you can choose the right school calculator for your student.

By Adam

July 14, 2014