may come in threes, but TI has a pair of winners for math and science classrooms.
The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition color calculator is for teachers and schools that
prefer a traditional standalone device while the TI-Nspire and CAS iPad apps
are for those who have built a curriculum around Apple’s tablet.
To start, the
TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition picks up where the monochrome Plus Silver Edition
leaves off. The 7.7-ounce case is lighter than the monochrome model, looks the
same and is available in black, purple and blue. Like its earlier cousins, the
Plus C comes with a slide-on cover.
It has an
identical button layout and uses the same key sequences, so moving from to the
other is a snap. In other words, the Plus C look like a clone of the Plus model
that can work your library of math files, all of its accessories as well as the
Vernier digital sensors, but there’s one important step forward: it has a
bright and rich 2.8-inch color screen. The 140 dot-per-inch display can show
16-bit color in vivid 320 by 240 resolution.
It may not be
impressive compared to a notebook or tablet display, but it is brilliant and
able to show everything from simple arithmetic to complex integration and just
about any graph you can think of. The numerals and graph lines appear so bright
that they just about jump off of the screen, particularly when compared to the
older monochrome displays.
Inside is the
same 15MHz Zilog Z80 processor as the TI-84 Plus family as well as 3.5MB of
Flash ROM. The calculator has 21KB of RAM available for work and apps, which
should be more than enough for most work.
powered by an 800 milliamp-hour rechargeable battery pack rather than the
Plus’s four disposable AAA batteries. It can be recharged with a micro-USB
cable and should be able to run for several days of on and off use on a charge.
The cable doubles as a way to communicate between calculators and it comes with
a plug-in charger and cables.
The Plus C’s operating
system is just as impressive with an integrated polynomial root finder as well
as optional apps for solving inequalities. So much more than a calculator, the
Plus C can solve and graph all kinds of equations. On the downside, its keypad
has become so complicated that it can take students and teachers a long time to
get the basics down and never truly master it. The multi-color markings help,
but it can be rough going.
excellent way to show off equations with images that can easily be downloaded
into the TI-84’s memory. To my thinking, there’s no better way to make the
shape of an absolute value function more memorable than to overlay it on top of
a V-shaped roof.
the TI-84 Plus C is, it is limited by the 2.8-inch screen and its $150 price
tag, about $20 more than the monochrome version. If that’s too much, TI is
giving some of them away. You need to be a US citizen and register on the
company’s Facebook page before April 21.
The TI Nspire
Apps for the iPad are not limited by the calculators constraints, but have
their own pros and cons. There’re two programs available: one emulates the Nspire
line of calculators and button sequence and the other uses TI’s CAS system.
They cost $30 each, but there are no volume discounts for outfitting a district
at a time at this time.
is downloadable from the iTunes App store and like the standalone calculator,
the app can work with images and use existing .tns documents from a hardware
calculator. Because the Nspire iPad app works with the entire screen, it
provides an incredible view of math, from simple equations all the way to
complex statistical distributions. You can use the iPad’s email client and WiFi
to distribute tests or park homework and worksheet files online in a Dropbox
comes into its own when connected to a projector, but you’ll need Apple’s $50
adapter or use Apple TV to do this. There’s nothing like punching in sine,
cosine and tangent curves to visually illustrate the relationship between them.
As cramped as
the hardware calculator’s keypad is, the software equivalent is spacious, well
laid out and takes advantage of the pad’s display space. In addition to a
central numeric pad, to the right are the major operators and to the left are
trig functions as well as a slew of powers, variables and calculus operations.
It should only take a few lessons before everyone is familiar with its design
and many will pick it up right away.
to directly inputting an equation to be graphed, you can start with raw data in
spreadsheet form, perfect for use in a science lab or to explore real world statistics.
The app has six different graphing styles and you can choose from a palette of
15 colors for the axes, lines and backgrounds.
It’s easy to
change equation variables to show everything from translations to the effect of
changing the sign of a function. At any time you can zoom in and out to see visually
key in on details.
includes several lessons, including an animated skateboarder rolling through a
parabola that shows the relationship between potential and kinetic energy. Not
only can you change the shape of the track, but the amount of friction and
gravity can be adjusted. More are downloadable on TI’s Web site.
statistics as well and can work with normal, Student T test, Chi Square,
binomial and Poisson distributions. There are ten standard testing functions
As good as
the app is, it’s not perfect. It only works on second- and third generation
iPads and there’s no Android software at this point, a major problem because
Android systems are much less expensive than iPads. On several occasions using
the Nspire app, the iPad Mini ran out of memory to do additional things. Plus,
the system doesn’t work with Vernier’s digital sensors.
disappointment is that because it is part of a tablet, it can’t be used on any
standardized tests at this point in time. That will likely change, but it means
that anything that is taught with it needs to be relearned with a standalone
calculator when it comes time to take the ACT, SAT and AP tests.
no shortage of free iPad graphing calculators, this one is so comprehensive
that it is worth the money, particularly for schools that have distributed
iPads to the entire student body.
TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition
+ Impressive screen
+ Continues with TI-84 layout
+ Rechargeable battery and AC adapter
+ Impressive built-in apps
- Cramped keypad
TI-Nspire Apps for iPad and TI-Nspire CAS App
Price: $30 each
+ Works well with iPad
+ Can use entire iPad screen
+ Uses familiar layout
+ Graphing flexibility
- Need a classroom of pads
- Doesn’t work with first generation iPad
- Not approved for tests
- Doesn’t work with Vernier sensors