Opinions wanted.


Opinions wanted:

Which calculator should I guide/suggest to my daughter who is a Junior in High School.

The reality of the US schools is that most texts use the Ti-83 and that is what she took from my collection in February. Should I just leave it at that as her math skills, while good, do not demand better. Or should I show her a superior calculator such as a 48G or whatever else may be suggested? The state of teaching in the US is such that most serious students are expected to have and use a graphics. So that is basically what this discussions should limit itself to (though an argument for an Hp41 could not be discounted).

While it really makes no difference today, the time spent on a better machine would pay dividends for her later, but this could just be wishful thinking on my part. Any comments.

She did take the Ti-83 only after great trepidation and is actually somewhat of an anti-technologist (probably to spite me). She went without a calculator up until this last semester. As most of you know, I do have an assortment of calculators that are available to her. What do I suggest or should I just let her use the Ti-83 (this is not a bad calculator, its just one I happen to dislike for what I feel should be in a calculator).



What about a 39g+ ?

Or could an 9g be sufficient?

You may have noticed that I didn't mention an RPN/RPL model yet.

From the overall quality and expandibility side, I'd take an HP-48G series machine.

But note this is mainly an RPN/RPL machine,

so you should let decide your daughter to choose the entry mode she likes more.



Even though I have a number of nice HP calcs,
I'm currently taking Intermediate Algebra
(something I should've taken 30 years ago when my brain was sharper).
The instructor, hell, the whole college, is geared toward the
TI-83. So I bought a used one as I didn't want to have to
stumble through class with a calculator my instructor was
afraid to touch. But the rebel in me won't die that easy,
I bought a 48G a week later. I just don't have time to learn
how to use it. (Full time job, puppy in the household, homework, and class, yada yadda, et al.)

So don't feel guilty about letting her use the TI.
(I was going to add, "...at least she's learning math."
until I realized that line of logic follows,
"Let your son read pr0n, at least he's reading!") B^)


I would definitely reccomend a scientific calculator (I don't think graphing calculators should be in middle schools, or even algebra or geometry), but that is just my preference/opinion.

Let's not turn this into another battle between graphing and scientific calculators.



First off, you should congratulate your daughter for being able to do mathematics without a calculator (that may be heresy here).

I went through this same process with my son who just turned 16. It was a crisis of conscience in that I am an engineer, and I learned on an HP. But I also have to be practical...

As in the US, Alberta is fundamentally a TI based program. One of our textbooks actually has examples based upon "keying in" to a TI to achieve the answer. My son is in what we call a matriculation curriculum (geared towards University entrance rather than trade school)

That having been said, I purchased an HP30 so that he could learn about an HP and get used to an Enter key (hey, I was naive). The calculator lasted about two months or so, and then passed away in its sleep one night. I subsequently purchased a TI-83 for him. I have found that the TI is a much nicer calculator than I had expected. He likes it better too, as he has the instructions immediately available to generate the results he is seeking rather than learning not just the material, but also an operating system. He can concentrate on the math process.

Bottom line for me: The romantic in me says go HP, the practical in me says go TI. Your mileage may vary.




First, I guess there's something wrong in introduce a calculator machine to youth people.

The math learning process is more analytical and conceptual task than calc-mechanic-typing.

When I was at school, the excercises were developed and formulated in a way that all the parcial and final results were simple results, making the concept more important than just asking the calculator for the sin or cosine of 90 degrees, leading to a more efficient learning for the class. Nobody that understoods the real concept of the "thing" needs an HP or a TI for calculating the sin, cosine, tangent of the 90,180,270,30,60,45 degrees or sqrt of 144 right?. And for the four basic math operations, it should be done by longhand computation for the sake of mind health.

Honesty I don't believe that an HP or a TI, numeric or graph calc would make a sensible difference 'cause later or not the calcs will broke, or will become obsolete.

Ler her use her mind for doing math. She, for sure, will never need an upgrade.

And finally, I might be wrong... ;)


P.S. Calculators are just for lazy adults minds like mine


"As in the US, Alberta is fundamentally a TI based program. One of our textbooks actually has examples based upon "keying in" to a TI to achieve the answer. My son is in what we call a matriculation curriculum (geared towards University entrance rather than trade school)"

Just yesterday I read a passage from a book from 1959 written by a professor who was visiting grade schools called "Why Kids Fail" In this passage he was explaining the difference between answer oriented students, and problem oriented students.

Here's the gist of it:

Answer oriented students get a problem and go on a treasure hunt to find this answer somewhere in Answerland. Rather than reading the problem and analyzing it, they say, "Well, last time I did a problem involving 2 people's ages (say Mary is twice as old..." I created a variable for Mary and a variable for John. I then equated them, and solved.

Doing the same problem, the problem oriented student took the information, made a logical guess (that neither could be older than 10 or so) and then using the prblem developed the answer.

If students are just keying in stuff to the TI-83 calculator, they don't understand how to do it. I have many friends who don't know how to really graph by hand, but they can key it into their calculator; that don't know how to solve many equations, but they can key it into their calculator.

That is why standardizing books to a specific calculator can be described as the downfall of Math classes. Students memorize how to plug in numbers to their calculator... how to press the buttons, not how to use their calculator to aid their own "Problem Oriented" mind.

I say, go for the different calculator, teach the kid at home some with it, and then he/she will learn more.

And now I must run off to my number theory class.



You could try to teach her how to use your collection of calculators. I hope you do have such a collection. And then if she likes any of the calculators or wishes to have some features that the calculators don't have. You will now then know which one she likes best. You should give her the one that she likes best. If she likes none (very possible) then get her none or get whatever recommended by the school.


I, too am a RPN addict. (My wife once gave me a HP20S and shortly thereafter, only she uses it.) I gave my son a 39G (no +; the older version can be had for much less and on Colin Croft's advice- and he's Mr. HP39G, 39G+, and 40G). This is an algebraic graphing calculator.

Despite my affection for RPN, I think kids should start off with algebraic, as it is easier to start with, their peers generally use one, and it does not scare the teacher.

I DO allow my son access to my RPN/RPL models if he wants to look at them and he has understood (though only basically) how to use RPN.

I suspect that as a kid begins to do more and more demanding calculations, they just might opt for RPN models, but to start, I recommend algebraic. The HP 39G, 40G (if available in the U.S.), and 39G+ models are quite nice and have enough power to last until high school work. But I think college math, science, and engineering courses would be facilitated by a RPN calculator.


Why not just teach her RPN and show her the features of both the TI and what ever HP you plan on getting for her, then let her decide what she wants. If she is in high school I am sure she is capable of making her own decision as to what calculator she wants to use.

I have no idea where this altitude that you should learn algebraic first and then learn RPN, is coming from, learning either is a trivial task if you already know the basic rules of math. The only difficult task is learning the more advanced functions of the calculator. Even that is rather easy if you learn the various features as you need them, as opposed to learning everything about the calculator at once.

Chris W


I had a difficult choice when my son was suggested to buy a TI-83, when I had like 8 HP calculators he could be using (well not the collector ones).

The TI-83 turns out to be very nice. He learns what he needs on it at school and almost never needs my help with it.

Asking a child to be different at school is just not practical. If 19 of 20 kids have a TI-83, the one without it is at a severe disadvantage.


If 19 of 20 kids have a TI-83, the one without it is at a severe disadvantage.

Following that logic, if 19 out of 20 drivers drive a Dodge Neon, the one with a Viper is going to be at a disadvantage? I don't think so.

Kids like to be different (or at least they that's what they claim) why not give them the information to make their own informed decision? However, I don't recommend letting them have the Dodge Viper :O)

Chris W


Chris, your example is absurd. You've gotta come up with something better than that to be taken seriously. Most kids don't want to be different. Maybe you like being labeled a nerdy geek, maybe you don't. Kids at this age only want to be cool. My daughter took a 49G to class, it was a cool blue color. Yeah, cool, everybody liked it, but nobody wanted to use it. Problem was, dad could only help with yesterday's lesson, not tomorrow's. Point is, anything other than the calculator being used in the textbook is putting a kid at a serious disadvantage. The teacher is not going to learn a different calc to help one kid. Get real. The kid would have to know the calc and the material better than the teacher. Calculators in the classroom are not about learning math, the abstract language that it is. I learned graphs on chalk boards and graph paper. Would have I learned any more or less with a calculator? IMO, less, since time is wasted on how to operate the calculator. It's not about the ability of the calculator to parse an expression, be it prefix or postfix. Just because you can use a computer, does that imply you can program it to do other useful things? Calculators are no different.

When you personally have a 12+ year old in an algebra class without the required recommended calculator, please come back and share your experiences. Meanwhile, let me ask you, how may primary teachers, or better yet, college professors have signed your "Bring back the 15C" petition? Were the blind live, the one-eyed reign. In my opinion, you're blinded by RPN. Hang around here long enough and your maybe eyes will be opened. There's a reason they call it a museum...

PS: I own lots of HP's and not one TI machine, but my 14 year old does :-(


how may primary teachers, or better yet, college professors have signed your "Bring back the 15C" petition?

Well I don't have any real way of knowing that for sure but I can make a guess. About 60% of the people who have signed the petition have left and email address, about 29% of the email addresses end in .edu. I don't know, but my guess is that many more of those are professors/instructors than are students. I have also noticed several comments from those that state they are a college professor, many of whom say they would recommend the 15C to their students. I don't know of a way of guessing on the grade school teachers except to say I have read a few comments from signers who say they are teachers. However, as I have stated before, I don't think students is the prime market for the 15C.

Huh? RPN is a muscle car?

Don't be so literal. I was only trying to point out that being different than everyone else isn't necessarily a bad thing. Having a fairly obvious physical handicap, I think I know a thing or two about being different. Any connection I may have intended was only around the speed difference between the two cars mentioned.

Most kids don't want to be different.

Maybe they do maybe they don't. My suggestion was to show the kid the advantages or each option and let her make her own decision.

dad could only help with yesterday's lesson, not tomorrow's

Here is where I have a quite different perspective. I didn't need help from dad on my math and I didn't need any help learning how to use my 11C I received for Christmas when I was in the 9th grade.

The kid would have to know the calc and the material better than the teacher.

The calculator, yes. The material, no. I guess with the sparse documentation that comes with calculators today that could be difficult, but I never had any problem learning how to use my calculators when I was in school. I guess starting with an 11C and then moving up to a 48GX through a 15C, 42S and 48SX made it a bit easier too.

Would have I learned any more or less with a calculator? IMO, less, since time is wasted on how to operate the calculator

I agree that a calculator isn't really a good tool to help learn math. What I mostly used a calculator for when I was in school was to check my answers. I tend to make little mistakes like dropping a term in an equation or a negative sign, my calculators came in handy to catch those errors. However I don't agree that time learning the calculator is time wasted, nor do I find it takes much time, especially compared to the time required to learn new concepts in math.

In my opinion, you're blinded by RPN.

I am not blinded by RPN, I have a bias sure but that doesn't mean I am close minded.

Hang around here long enough and your maybe eyes will be opened.

I am still waiting for that, so far the only attempt has been to give a vague reference to a single example by someone who expects that to be enough for me to change my long held views when they require precise details before they will form an opinion.

As I have said before, I am willing to discuss this and look forward to reading good arguments but so far I haven't seen any.

Chris W


Are you here for the five minute argument or the full half-hour?


I'm afraid I never saw the Monyt Python shows or movies (only a few clips here and there) So I may be missing the implied meaning of that question.

If those are my two choices I will take the full half-hour, but I think it will take a little longer than that.

Chris W


I still find it odd that your position seems to be that the course is based around a single model of calculator and that the student's at a significant disadvantage if the teacher isn't familiar with whatever calculator they're using.

Isn't algebra supposed to be about learning, well, algebra? As opposed to poking through examples with a calculator?


Mr. Ramsey, the sad truth is that some educators (and I use the term generously) from elementary to postsecondary levels are not really into teaching their charges. They want to show their flash and how "hip" and "with it" they are with our "modern technological society" and "how they are advancing the children's education with technology".

Nah, algebra class in many places hasn't been about algebra in a long time. Algebra isn't the only one...


"Nah, algebra class in many places hasn't been about algebra in a long time.
Algebra isn't the only one... "

This rasism MUST end now !!!
I want RPN classes !
V P N * +


I want RPN classes ! V P N * +

That would be one short class, and a very thin text.

Chris W


Algebra v RPN, no contest, ignorance of RPN is an attempt

to drive us back to the ignorance of Pre Hewlett Packard




Ouch... my sides hurt... SOS! SOS! SOS!


Most kids don't want to be different.

My older son used a 48GX in high school while his younger brother was using a 41CV in middle school. Now the older is in college and the younger has switched to a 48GX in high school. Both *asked* for the HP calculators, and both were the only HP users in their classes.

When you personally have a 12+ year old in an algebra class without the required recommended calculator, please come back and share your experiences.

The only calculator-related issue that has come up for either of my boys was in ninth-grade Geometry last year. My youngest wanted to know how to find inverse sine, inverse cosine and inverse tangent on his 48GX. I explained that arcsin, arccos and arctan (represented on the calc by asin, acos, and atan) were alternate notations for those operations. That was all the help he needed (for operating the calculator, anyway). It surprised me a bit that neither his teacher nor his textbook mentioned both ways of representing the inverse trig functions. (The textbook actually had little pictures of the inverse trig keys from a TI model.) He'll be taking Honors Trig this year, so I don't think his HP held him back.


Mr. Woodhouse, oh not at all!

They say one thing and do another (don't we all)!

No one will admit to their adherence to Nietzschean pack mentality, stoked by Madison Avenue. But tell a boy (I ain't gots no gals so I can'ts says 'bout that) to wear the "wrong" kind of shoes or shorts (to school no less) and it will show in all its redolent antiglory.

Apparently, this is totally true also in middle to high schoolers' choice of calculators, too. TIs and algebraics have the reputation that they're easier to learn and use, never mind that "da teacha" recommends them (most never heard of RPN; they think it's an ethnic slur). Never mind that, it almost has always to be a graphing one, too.

There is, however, the cachet of being the "Dexter" of your class (Mandark will do, however), that is, in having a HEWLETT-PACKARD rpn machine, scientific or graphing. Well, at least this was true when I was in school... and our teachers sort of recommended the HPs on account of their QUALITY, while mumbling under their breath about their prices. Oh yeah- TIs (and algebraics generally) are STILL relatively cheaper. This appeals to most parents and teachers.

I will tell you that while my son loves his HP39G algebraic, he does eye me using my HP RPN models (he especially loves the look of the 33s. He's a kid; what can I say?).

I will agree that teaching someone/learning for yourself/being taught to use RPN is not really difficult at all and that the best of both worlds is that they master both variations so that resistance will be futile when it comes to homework and other calculations.


My grandniece is the only student in her school with an HP calculator, and she's darn proud of it.

But she gets mad at me because I wait until she's learned how to do something "the hard way", then I show here how to do it on her calculator the easy way. I'm hoping that sooner or later she starts exploring just how much the calculator can do for her. But on the other hand, I guess that it's best that she learns math before she learns all the neat shortcuts that the calculator can do for her.



Our son who just finished 10th grade and is a year ahead of his peers in math was supposed to get a TI-83+ last year. I expected he probably didn't really need it, and thought we'd just wait and see. He wasn't very facinated by the idea of getting something else to carry and make sure didn't get stollen, so we went week to week without getting one, until the whole year was finished. It never became an issue.

Algebra and geometry classes mostly give canned problems with artificial answers anyway, so calculators are generally not needed. Our son said the kids who had them mostly used them for sharing and playing games, and really made very little legitimate use of them for the class.

I'm sure I often come across as a technophobe; but what I'm really against is the _misapplication_ of technology. If our schools were turning out students that were more competent in math 40 or 50 years ago than they are today, do we need calculators to cath up?


I'd say that the widespread premature introduction of calculators at the early grade levels are a factor in the schools turning out kids less adept at math than in the past.


I'd say that the widespread premature introduction of calculators at the early grade levels are a factor in the schools turning out kids less adept at math than in the past.

I agree. When I was in school calculators weren't allowed before high school. When I was in middle school some kids got the new calculator watches and hoped the teacher wouldn't catch them with it. In the 9th and 10th grade some of my teachers were a little uneasy about letting me use my 11C on tests.


With the hp 33s calculator one gets:
All the functions you need plus constants and conversions.
ALG mode and a history of it.
RPN mode and the Y-register.
Programmability in both RPN and ALG.
Equations that can be used in both modes and in programs.
A decimal points, which adults can't see without their reading glasses :)
PS: you will not get graphing...


I agree.

Since that is my opinion, and therefore is an other opinion, ...



I second VPN about the HP33S, it is a handy+ calculator in all aspects.

But I still think that the radix mark (dot or comma) should be more visible, maybe if it took a whole character like it is in the printed documentation it would be better. Try typing in a number with all digits equal to "2". It's hard to see the (actual) radix mark.

Although my opinion is not the same in this particular matter...


Luiz (Brazil)


Hi, Ron;

invite her to "visit" the MoHPC and read some posts. If she accepts, point/show some of them first and try to "feel" her reaction. If you see that she is about to be interested, tell her to invite her classmates to read, too. Girls usually do things better when they are together (I have a 12 Y.O. daughter...). If nothing works, ask her what sort of calculators the boys use. Sometimes the gender competition by itself is useful.

NOW ABOUT calculators. I read some posts here and I believe that Ben is right about graphics and scientific. Also, Raymond is right: if she chooses, it's more likely that she will keep it. And Jams Prange added a very important "rant", and I taste it everytime my daughter asks me for helping her. I try showing her the (what we believe to be) actual path, and later the shortcut. And she most of the times is angry about that. I gave her an HP6S last year, and she seldom uses it. She loves dogs... not calculators.

I did not mention other opinions because both they are completely obvious and settled or I guess they are somehow off-topic. Sorry...

At least I hope that after reading so much opinions you'll be ready to balance all known points and have the chance to discuss them with her.

Hope you succeed. She as well.


Luiz (Brazil)


Why not just ask her? She might amaze you with her decision and reason.

Let her guide her destination. As a father myself, my job is not to dictate my children's path, but to encourage them to think and make the best decisions that they can. They may fail, but better now than as an adult. If they can't make a decision now, they never will as an adult.


Hi Ron. Many good opinions have been offered. Here is another data point.

My daughter recently finished her senior year in high school in which she completed AP Physics, AP Calculus, AP Computer Science and AP Statistics. Starting in intermediate school and continuing through high school I showed her both RPN and algebraic scientific and graphing calculators. She tried several types but preferred using an old entry level algebraic scientific calculator (TI 30 Stat). She says that she prefers the simplicity of the calculator with it's uncluttered keypad.

However, in her senior year she requested a TI 83+ to use in AP Statistics. She needed a number cruncher that supported both the algorithms and graphics needed for the class and this was the model that her instructor recommended. Also, I believe that the AP Statistics textbook that her class used was oriented toward the TI 83+.

She plans to major in mathematics and psychology in college starting this fall.

I hope that this helps.




Thankyou for your feedback.

As to what I will do: Probably nothing. As I stated earlier, she did make her choice, by grabbing a Ti-83 from my collection. It is what that class used and it worked very well for her. This fall starts a new semester in which she will be Junior and will take Trig in the Fall and Pre-Calc in the spring.

I wouldn't have even bothered to but in if her algebra was on the same level as my algebra in High School. But when I saw some of her material, I was impressed and felt she could benefit from a better calculator. However, there are lots of advantages to running with the herd and I suspect that is what she will do. She is somewhat snobbish in even using a calculator and prefers to grind out the work by hand anyway, so she doesn't really care to use anything. I suspect the wide range of material and her need to crunch numbers with the class prompted her to grab the Ti from my collection. Prior to that she made do with a pocket calculator (the Hp30s).

She does use RPN if nothing else is handy, ie she won't bother to go down a flight of stairs to my collection if there is a usable calculator on my desk even though it be RPN. But she has no loyalty towards anything and I suspect, never will. While that hurts me as an avid calculator collector, I will get over it. Well maybe I'll get over it. B^b


Just to let you know, for Pre-Cal, the 32sii is a great calculator (well any powerful scientific calculator really). Most of that class is doing number stuff mixed with algebra (there is little graphing, at least here). The 32sii is great because once you learn about Permutations and Combinations, it is there for you... right on the keyboard: 3 button presses away. Radian to Degree conversion... 2 buttons (On the beloved Ti-83 it is like 10 key presses).

I admit that for calculus, having a calculator which graphs is handy, but for what is covered in pre-cal, a scientific calculator is great (or great to use in addition to a graphing calculator)



re: "Radian to Degree conversion... 2 buttons (On the beloved Ti-83 it is like 10 key presses)."

If pi is available at a button push (I don't know about the TI 8x series - although most of my physics students use them), just do 180/pi to get the conversion factor (and either multiply or divide by it, as necessary). I suppose you could then store it in some otherwise little used register.

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