After recently reading an article online written by a father who was totally mad that (1) graphing calculators are so expensive, and (2) they have not come down in price over the years since digital devices do; I’ve determined that I need to give this issue some historical perspective as well as addressing his complaints.
First, however, I would like to reassure that this dad and all parents out there which you are not alone in those frustrations. In 1988, the high school at which I had been teaching math adopted a textbook series (UCSMP) which has been highly graphing calculator determined; and I spent the remainder of my math teaching career discussing this very issue with many parents. But because I am probably much older than most of you that have been required to deal with buying your kids graphing calculators–which means I went into high school BC (Before Calculators); and because I had been a mathematics major is faculty; also because I spent many years teaching higher level mathematics classes using the graphing calculator, I still have a very distinct perspective on the graphing calculator.
When I was in high school, calculators weren’t yet readily available and would not have been allowed in any high school math classroom anyway. I bought my very first calculator in 1968 for my school Calculus class good graphing calculator. It cost $99 that was a fantastic deal of money in 1968; but I believed it worth every penny. It was going to save me so much time by removing many time-consuming and tedious calculations (especially long branch ). I had been excited and considered it a bargain.
My second calculator was purchased in 1973 for my grad degree. I was going to be carrying both mathematics statistics and psychology data and both courses required being able to calculate the standard deviation of a group of information. This requires finding the root of a number which is a painstaking procedure when done by hand! My new calculator still had only one line on the screen, but it had been much smaller (about 2 inches by 3 inches and lean ), ran on batteries, and had one extra function. It might figure out the square root of a number in addition to the normal four purposes. I paid $99 for this calculator as well which was a whole lot of cash. But I was so excited with the square root button which, again, I felt it had been worth every penny. Math was likely to be so much easier now.
Small calculators were becoming available, however, it took many years for the philosophical issues around allowing calculators in the classroom to be settled. Many experts believed that the calculator would destroy students’ skills to carry out basic skills, and it’s done exactly that. But others specialists watched the calculator as enabling pupils to delve deeper into mathematics and allow for more complex situations to be studied, and it has done that as well.
Now, jump ahead to 1988 and Air Academy High School District #20 using its graphing calculator based textbook show and the new need for every pupil to have a graphing calculator. Input the TI-80. Then the TI-85. The price of each of these calculators? You guessed it$99. I retired from teaching in 2005, but because I proctor AP examinations for a local high school, I know that schools are now using the TI-84+. Only time will tell if high schools will begin recommending/using either.
Thus, does the father have a valid point about the cost of calculators coming as electronics do? In my opinion, NO. This reduction in price applies to goods performing the exact same job. In reality, a calculator that will conduct the functions of my first two $99 calculators can be found today for $2.99. That’s two dollars and one-hundred pennies! I consider that a major drop in price. (I will agree that the TI-83 should be coming down in price a little because it’s been around for several years. Similarly, the TI-89.)
What makes this price-drop issue not use to those calculators is the simple fact that every new graphing calculator has included so many new features and functions. We now have calculators with algebraic, geometric, trigonometric, logarithmic, statistical and calculus functions. It’s actually quite amazing they just cost $99. Each of these calculators is a new and more capable computer for about $99 to $149. Keep this in view. We invest more on tennis shoes which are going to be out grown or worn out in six months; also we spend much longer on iPods which often become obsolete (not usable ) because Apple makes slight changes in connectors. While it’s true that new calculators come out with nifty new features (such as the touch pad on the TI-Nspire) another calculators do not become obsolete. The TI-84+ is still as good a calculator as it was. It isn’t quite as straightforward.