I’m really bad at calculations. I may get the theory behind something, but the calculations make me sick. I still manually write down anything I’m carrying over while doing even simple additions. No wonder I’ve always loved calculators – in fact, I’ve been using it since a long time, and even scientific calculators for much longer than other people who only start using them (at least in India) in higher classes. Well, that may well be a reason why that problem remains. And maybe it’s also the reason why I want to give the SAT (because they allow calculators!).
However, not many people use them here – I’ve seen very strange stares at school when I’m tapping away at my Casio in school. Most look at it as if it’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy / some piece of alien technology. What prompted this post was the fact that many people couldn’t figure out the functions. So here are some handy tips on scientific calculators. Note that since I use Casio, my advice may only work for those ones, but then again, most use Casio anyway.
- Stick to Casio as far as scientific ones are concerned – they’re the BEST. I’ve seen smaller companies like Karce and Sharp offer ones for much less, but they miss out on functions. Casio offers value for money, and always come with the highest functions for their given price. And if you wanna import it, you can even try Texas Instruments (better for financial calculators) or HP (I don’t think they’re very popular though).
- For total noobs: Scientific calculators evaluate AFTER you enter the whole expression. And yes, you have to enter each operator. Simply doing (2)(2) will give you SYNTAX ERROR while 2×2 won’t.
- Finding out antilogarithms: One thing many of my friends have asked me is how to find out antilogarithms on a scientific calculator, because in lower end models it isn’t given prominently. Sadly, even their manual misses this part out. I, for example, use the Casio fx-82MS for school purposes, and it doesn’t show the antilogarithm option on keypad. So, for Casio fx-82MS for example, just press Shift, then LOG. It’ll show power of 10 on screen. Just enter the number whose antilog you need, using braces if it is negative. You’ll get your answer.
- Use braces, loads of them. It prevents silly precedence errors from taking place, and those sort of errors are pretty common in the beginning. It’s easy to overlook such errors; and adding braces never hurt anyone.
- SAT allows most calculators I’ve heard, including simple, scientific, programmable and graphic ones. This a question many ask me. But I have also heard that sometimes, the type of calculator allowed is inversely proportional to the stupidity of the examiner.
- For SAT, if you’ve a higher end one, it’s better to keep a lower end one along (even a simple 4-function will do). If the invigilator stops you, you’ll at least have SOMETHING! Also helps if battery runs out.
- Use Shift + MODE to clear memory. One thing, many people I’ve seen trying it computer style, pressing Shift along with the function. That’s not how you do it. Press Shift, lift that fat thumb of yours, and THEN the function you want.
- From personal experience, I’d advice you to stick to standard models. Yes, graphic calculators offer more, but for a newbie the interface is more complicated, and anyway, it bogs you down. It’s also not very good to give up integrations / differentiations up to calculators, or you’ll never GET the concepts.
- Programmable ones are for engineering use, not school. Yes you may use it, but you’ll hardly need it.
- ‘SVPAM’ on Casio calculators (sadly?) has nothing to do with PAMela Anderson. It stands for ‘Super Visually Perfect Algebraic Method’ – a really stupid acronym that Casio uses to talk about it’s ability to display algebraic functions on a two-line / multi-line display better.
- Lastly, switching off is Shift + AC buttons, you dumbos!
Although I use calculators a lot, I never give over the task of actual theoretical equations solving over to them. Neither should you, or you will NOT get the concepts. You can start using built-in equation solvers maybe when you’re actually working when you grow up, but at least right now, I don’t do it, neither do I think anyone should.