Open Question: The Texas Instruments Graphing Calculator

What’s the difference between being able to do math and being able to use a computer that can do math? There must be some difference, since you can’t use an iPod or other dynamic electronic device on most college mathematics assessments. Instead, students are stuck with the Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Silver Edition (at best).

This calculator is, for most purposes, the same calculator that I was required to use in my high school math classes, the TI-81. The thing was designed 21 years ago. I honestly think if a student had a TI-81 instead of a TI-84+SE, they would be just as able to hack it in any math class up to College Pre-Calculus. The display is the same on both calculators… 96×64 pixels! Straight up black and… green.

Of course, this thing is a total piece of crap when compared with an iPod on 4G. Wolfram Alpha alone renders much of the TI-84+ SE functionality obsolete! Certainly the graphing functionality is superior using Alpha. Also, Alpha is intuitive… it’s largely unnecessary to learn the arguments in order to use Alpha, unlike the TI.

My guess is that internet access is something colleges believe will lead to cheating… that the work students do on assessments may represent aptitude using the computational instrument rather than aptitude for mathematics. Hence, the use of a less functional tool. (Also… what about pencil-and-paper? Why use a calculator at all? Slippery slope?) But I could be wrong.

Why are the Texas Instruments graphing utilities still in heavy use despite the prevalence of tools with superior functionality?

This question is open.

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