Over at Cosmic Variance, Julianne waxes rhapsodic about her calculator, a HP-15C. This is such an obvious Dorky Poll topic that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it earlier:
What sort of calculator do you use?
My students, particularly the future engineers, are always shocked by my answer:
I use a TI 30Xa. Actually, I don’t know that off the top of my head– I had to dig it out and look at it to come up with the model number. I think of it as “A $10 scientific calculator that I bought at Safeway.”
This does everything I need, though– it adds, subtracts, multiplies, divides, does square roots, logarithms and exponentials, and calculates trig functions. It’s also got some statistical functions, but I have no idea how to use them.
Students are forever coming up to me and asking me how to do some operation or another on their huge HP graphing calculators, and I tell them “I have no idea. This is what I use.” They always goggle at me, but it’s the truth– I use a pen and paper to do enough algebra to get it down to where I can keep track of the numbers as I punch them in. I’m less likely to lose my place, or make a mistake, and if I do screw something up, it’s easier to check.
“But how do you graph things?” With a pen and paper. If I can’t sketch a graph, I need a real computer for the job, and I know where we keep SigmaPlot and Mathematica.
“But my HP can do nested parentheses!” La. I can do that on paper. And if the function in question has too many nested function calls for me to keep track of it while entering it into my cheap TI, I need to look at it on a screen bigger than a credit card.
So, I’m all about the cheap scientific calculators– I don’t care if students use the big graphing jobs (unlike my colleagues in Math, who keep a big sack of TI-30Xa’s that they hand out before exams), but I have no interest in using them, or even knowing how.
But enough about my raging Luddite tendencies. What sort of calculator do you use?