Math Department considers new calculator recommendation


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by Alex Wang, Web Developer

The Upper School Math Department is considering changing its calculator recommendation to include the HP Prime calculator, rather than just the TI-83 and TI-84.

Although there is no required calculator, the department currently recommends that students use a TI-83 or TI-84.

The HP Prime calculator is in the same category as the Texas Instruments calculators, but has some key distinguishing features, such as a touchscreen. Head of Math Department Anthony Silk finds that there are many advantages to the HP Prime, which is allowed on standardized tests.

“I think the advantages are that, as far as technology is concerned, it is more up-to-date than the TI with touchscreen, copy-paste and wireless capability, which are more relevant,” Silk said.

The HP Prime is app-based, including different apps for graphing functions, geometry and statistics. It also has a Computer Algebra System, giving it some of the same capabilities as Wolfram Mathematica. Its wireless capability especially benefits teachers, allowing them to communicate with and send data to students’ calculators with their laptops.

Mathematics teacher Dr. Lola Muldrew plans to use this feature in class.

“I can create lessons ahead of time and send them to students during class, [which] will make things speed up,” Dr. Muldrew said.

Physically, the HP Prime is sleeker, thinner, and lighter than its Texas Instruments counterparts. It is also more fragile, due to its iPhone-like touchscreen. While the TI-84 is dependent on AAA batteries for power, the HP Prime’s power source is a built-in battery, which can be charged with a charging cord.

In terms of price, the HP Prime is slightly more expensive than the TI-84. According to and Best Buy, the HP Prime costs an average of $150, while the TI-84 comes in at an average price over $120.

The main obstacle in the way of bringing the HP Prime to the Upper School is the matter of introducing and integrating the calculator among the students. Since the current calculator recommendation, which students follow starting from the Middle School, is the TI-84, almost every student uses a TI-84.

“We’ve been using the TI-83s since I got here 13 years ago,” Silk said. “The main disadvantage is that we are all used to the TI and they work. There’s nothing wrong with the TI.”

Johnny Trinh (12) sees assimilating the calculator into the Upper School as the main issue.

“I think if you know how to use it, it’s really nice, but at this point I’m too accustomed to my TI-84 to bother learning a new calculator,” Johnny said.

Silk will be conducting a pilot test for these calculators, allowing some selected students to borrow and use an HP Prime for a semester in their math courses.