After recently reading an article online written by a dad who was totally mad that (1) graphing calculators are so pricey, and (2) they have not come down in price over the years since electronic devices usually do; I’ve decided I need to provide this issue some historic perspective in addition to fixing his complaints.
First, however, I would like to reassure that this dad and all of parents out there that you aren’t alone in these frustrations. Back in 1988, the high school where I had been teaching math adopted a textbook series (UCSMP) that has been highly graphing calculator dependent; and that I spent the rest of my mathematics teaching career discussing this very issue with many parents. But because I’m probably much older than many of you who have been required to deal with buying your children graphing calculators–so I went into high school BC (Before Calculators); and because I was a math major is faculty; also because I spent many years teaching higher level mathematics courses using the graphing calculator, I have a very distinct outlook about the graphing calculator.
When I was in high school, calculators were not yet readily available and wouldn’t have been allowed in almost any high school math classroom anyway. I bought my very first calculator in 1968 for my college Calculus class. That calculator was enormous (roughly 4 inches wide, 6 inches long and two inches thick), needed to be plugged into the wall, only had a one line screen, and just performed 4 functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). It cost $99 which was a fantastic deal of money in 1968; but I considered it worth every cent. It was going to save me so long by removing many time-consuming and tedious calculations (especially long division).
My next calculator was purchased in 1973 for my graduate degree. I had been going to be taking both mathematics statistics and psychology statistics and the two courses required being in a position to compute the standard deviation of a set of data best graphing calculator for calculus. This requires finding the root of a number which is a painstaking procedure when performed by hand! My new calculator nevertheless had just 1 line on the screen, but it had been much smaller (roughly 2 inches by 3 inches and lean ), conducted on batteriesand had one additional purpose. It could figure out the square root of a number along with the normal four functions. I paid $99 for this calculator also which was a great deal of money. However, I had been excited with the square root button which, again, I believed it had been worth every penny. Math was likely to be much simpler today.
Little calculators were becoming available, however, it took many years to the philosophical issues round allowing calculators in the classroom to be depended. Many experts felt that the calculator could ruin students’ abilities to perform fundamental skills, and it’s done exactly that. But others specialists watched the calculator as enabling students to delve deeper into mathematics and allow for much more complicated situations to be studied, and it’s done that also.
Now, jump forward to 1988 and Air Academy High School District #20 using its graphing calculator established textbook show and the new demand for each and every pupil to have a graphing calculator. Enter the TI-80. Subsequently the TI-85. Then the TI-83 and TI-83+. The price of each of these calculators? You guessed it$99. I retired from teaching in 2005, but because I proctor AP exams for a regional high school, I understand that schools are currently using the TI-84+.
Thus, does the father have a legitimate point about the price of calculators coming down as electronics do? In my view, NO. This decrease in price applies to goods performing the same job. In fact, a calculator that will perform the functions of the first two $99 calculators can be found now for $2.99. That’s two bucks and ninety-nine cents! I consider that a significant fall in price. (I’ll agree that the TI-83 ought to be coming down in price a little because it’s existed for many decades. Likewise, the TI-89.)
What makes this price-drop problem not apply to those calculators is the simple fact that each and 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 is in fact quite amazing they just cost $99. Bear this in view. We spend more on tennis shoes that will be out grown or worn out in six months; also we spend much longer on iPods which frequently become literally obsolete (not useable) because Apple makes slight changes in connectors. Although it is a fact that new calculators come out with nifty new features (such as the touch pad on the TI-Nspire) the other calculators do not become obsolete. The TI-84+ remains as good a calculator as it had been. It isn’t quite as straightforward.