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Math Hardware

Ask Slashdot: Cheap Second Calculators For Tests? 328

Rich0 writes "I own an HP 48 calculator that I'm quite content with, but soon I'll need to take a certification exam where this calculator will not be welcome. I'm sure this is a common problem for those who own higher-end calculators. Sure, I could just buy a random $15 calculator with a few trig functions, but I was wondering who makes the best moderately-priced calculators for somebody who already has and appreciates a programmable calculator and just needs something simple. Bonus points if the calculator can handle polar vector arithmetic and unit conversions, but it has to be simple enough that virtually any exam would accept its use."
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Ask Slashdot: Cheap Second Calculators For Tests?

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  • Calculator (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:20PM (#45446089)

    I believe the TI-36X Pro would probably do what you are looking for. It is approved for use on Professional Engineer tests, from what I have read.

    • Re:Calculator (Score:5, Informative)

      by skutterbob ( 2988851 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @11:30PM (#45446385)
      I have a ti-36 solar... if you're taking the PE exam check the NECEES website, that is the definitive site for what is allowed. Get the calculator a few weeks ahead of time if possible take a short practice exam with it... since you "know" your normal calc. (which btw is not allowed) Heck have a spare anyway... I had 2. shit happens Engineers Prepare for anything ;)
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I took two bottom of the line TI-30s ($9.99) and my slide rule (in 1997 or 1998). There's nothing on the FE or PE exam that needs anything other than basic calculations: trig functions, etc. You could quite easily do it with a decent slide rule: it's not like you need 8 digits of accuracy. Either you know which equation to use, and you know what steps are in the solution, or you don't. The "wrong" answers are all the typical screwups (b/a instead of a/b kind of stuff).

        However.. since you're used to an H

      • I have a ti-36 solar...

        Yeah, but he's used to RPN so he's pretty much stuck with HP models. ...although he doesn't say that. Which makes this "Ask Slashdot" as pointless as any other "Ask Slashdot".

        Asking which is "best" is never a good question.

    • TI36 solar is an excellent choice. All the functionality with very little extra. Look for a model that has the scientific notation button (EE) as the primary function. Some have it this way, while most have it as a second function. If you use this a lot, and I suspect you do, you'll find it much more convenient to not constantly push the 2nd button.
      • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

        Thanks. I have no idea what would possess anybody to make that a secondary function! I hit it all the time! Granted, for the test I'm taking it might not be quite as essential.

      • I find Casios have more logical function layouts.

    • I think that was the only calculator that anyone was allowed to use on tests in my entire university. But it might just of been the Maths dept.

      Not that hundreds of other calculators did not work just as well and not allow you to cheat.

    • Why the HP 48[SG]X would be not welcomed? it has this oldish look (well, it's pretty old actually) that hides complex and powerful features [besides programming, I like the fractional to quotient feature, the PI as a logical entity, undo, RPN, stack, extendable ... ].
      • Because of those 'complex and powerful features.' They can be used to cheat. It's easy to fill a programmable calculator with notes. Exactly how cheat-worthy this is depends on the exam - if it's all math problems then the extent is really down to just noteing any long, complex formulas. If it has non-math questions though - things like the tolerances requires to pass safety certification schemes or the differences between wireing color codes or different eras* - a note function can remove a lot of the rote

        • Not just for notes - in high school, I had my 83+ programmed with all of the formulas I had coming up in a test and no one ever checked. It was fairly basic, for sure, but I never got into the memorization of formulas and I just wrote little BASIC-like programs to do it for me.

        • Hmmm yes, again I submitted too fast. The logic hidden behind my comment was that since the hp48 looks oldish, and since exam people never ever saw a hp48 in their (usually young) life, and thus don't know about these 'complex and powerful features', they'll let the wolf into the fold.
      • While they in theory test your problem solving and experience in a field, in fact they tend to be filled with memorization of minutia and lots of "gotcha" questions. Hence a calculator that can store notes in memory isn't allowed. Some don't allow calculators period because the ability to do base-2 math in your head is somehow important by their logic.

        What it comes down to is that writing a good skills test is hard, and doing a computerized one is nearly impossible. So instead they make it hard through othe

    • I believe the TI-36X Pro would probably do what you are looking for. It is approved for use on Professional Engineer tests, from what I have read.

      I have that calculator and it's awesome and comfortable to work with. One of the best, or even the best solar-powered calculator on this planet.

    • Pros: No batteries, no TEMPEST emissions, no NSA snooping...
  • My 2 cents (Score:5, Informative)

    by thatkid_2002 ( 1529917 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:24PM (#45446101)
    I have a TI-36X Pro for basically the same reasons you outlined. It's quite affordable too, and if you're in the US (I'm not) then it is really easy to find.
    • Re: My 2 cents (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bruno.fatia ( 989391 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:31PM (#45446137)

      I had to buy a HP 35S because my 50g wasn't allowed in some tests in my engineering school and I simply can't use a calculator that doesn't do RPN anymore.

      • That's a concern I also have with non-RPN calculators. I've been using RPN since I bought my trusty HP-35 back in the day. RPN is the way I work through problems. That dreaded Enter key just doesn't seem to have the same efficiency as RPN for my thought processes. YMMV.....
        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          Yeah, I've already resigned myself to having to live without RPN on this one. For a test it really isn't the end of the world.

          I really hope I never drop my HP48G on the floor. I hear they don't make them like they used to...

      • I had to buy a HP 35S because my 50g wasn't allowed in some tests in my engineering school and I simply can't use a calculator that doesn't do RPN anymore.

        More properly, using calculators that lie about being "algebraic" and use a bastard mix of algebraic and RPN are confusing to use. Why do I say this? Think about it. with an RPN calculator, dyadic functions are (number) (number) (function), while monadic functions are (number) (function). With so-called "algebraic" calculators, while dyadic functions are (number) (function) (number) (equals), monadic functions are (number) (function) -- which is RPN.

    • Do you know if the TI-36X Pro programming errors [] have ever been fixed?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That's not a programming error. It's a convention error.

        If you look at the wikipedia article, the calculator is trying to say pi * 12.5^2 = 625 pi/4, which is the correct answer, if you assume a multiplication between the fraction and the number before it. It's 625 quarters of a pi. That's the way most people would read that in Europe, too. It's just it also LOOKS like a mixed fraction, and if read as a mixed fraction, the result would be wrong, but that isn't what's the calculator software authors intended

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:28PM (#45446119)

    Check out the NCEES Calculator Policy [].

    I had a non-programmable calculator in college but it died and I didn't need a calculator at work. I bought a TI-30Xa for when I took the state professional engineering exam. I am still using this calculator as an engineering professor. Plenty of capability.

    • by qubezz ( 520511 )

      Texas Instruments TI-30X IIS ($14) or the TI-36X Pro ($20). The 30 is a scientific and statistics calculator, whereas the 36x adds the vector math and constants, and a few basic solvers.

      • The TI-30XIIS scientific calculator is approved for use on SAT*, ACT*, and AP* exams.
      • NCEES: Any Texas Instruments calculator must contain either TI-30X or TI-36X in its model name
  • HP-11C (Score:3, Informative)

    by prz ( 648630 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:30PM (#45446125) Homepage
    I would suggest the HP-11C. It's available on ebay, and is not $15 cheap, but it is an RPN programmable scientific, of less complexity than the HP-48. I am an RPN fan, so I would go the extra mile to get an RPN calculator.
    • I found one of these in a desk drawer when we were moving from one building to another. Jackpot. It's way more limited than my old 48GX, but it does RPN!

    • If they don't force you to use "TI model x", then I would second this for RPN users. I have an 11C which I bought new nearly 30 years ago, and it is a wonderful machine which your thumbs will love. I later ended up with a 16c (programmer's version), and a 48g, but the 11c is still my favorite.

  • build one (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:33PM (#45446147)

    step 1: buy a retarded large button lcd calculator with w huge screen and fixed digits (you know, 0-9, ., +, *, /, -)

    step 2: replace the buttons with joysticks

    step 3: replace the screen with something around 300dpi

    step 4: put in an arm processor and bring up linux

    step 5: add wireless networking

    step 6: swap out the aa batteries with lithium

    step 7: develop a chorded keyboard input on the now 9 position keys

    step 8: write an emulator to pretend to be the original calculator

    step 9: profit

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      I'm surprised there have not been any serious attempts at an open source battery powered calculator. It could be a case of replacing the firmware in an existing model or could include open source hardware as well. Sounds like exactly the sort of thing neckbeards would love to work on.

  • I come across TI-35's and such at thrift stores for a few bucks. You aren't going to uses it again much so just re-donate when you are done with it.
  • I have a Casio FX991ES, it has a nice display, can do unit conversion, polar arithmetic and is cheap.

    It's pretty common in Australia. It has a different model number in every country.
    • I've got this one, reasonably common in the UK, about the most powerful calculator you're allowed to take into most exams.
  • by The_Dougster ( 308194 ) on Saturday November 16, 2013 @10:57PM (#45446253) Homepage

    I like calculators and picked one of these up for a spare. For a non-graphing, non-programmable, scientific calculator, it is pretty good. Input and output display are independent so you can use natural input and have decimal output. It is easy to use overall. Mine has no persistent state so if it times out and turns off it comes back cleared. These are neat calculators and very inexpensive.

  • You gotta go with my #1, the TI-36x Solar. It's ACT and SAT allowed so if anyone has a problem with it, they're making it up.
  • Made the best calculator.

  • HP-35s. Not as good as the original HP-35 u some respects, but plenty usable: []

  • If you do RPN then there is
    no option to use a TI calculator.

    I wish HP would revisit the older HP-21 just add
    a modern display perhaps an E-ink display or technology display.

    To me the most interesting idea would
    be a USB link not too different than the
    BeagleboneBlack where you can interact
    with a web browser (and charge the batteries).

    Plug the USB link and the calculator keyboard and
    display are fully mirrored. Unplug it to take into
    a test. To qualify for a test it would need a serious
    reset button

  • by pngwen ( 72492 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @12:02AM (#45446509) Journal

    I use a Casio FX-260 Solar for these sorts of things. It has all your basic scientific functions, plus a nice statistics package. It doesn't have complex numbers or base conversions though. Still, for $10.00, it's not half bad!

  • Get a Casio! (Score:4, Informative)

    by EETech1 ( 1179269 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @12:19AM (#45446569)

    I have 2 Casio FX-115ESPlus calcs, and I use them all the time. One at my desk, one in my toolbox. I think I paid $12.99 for them, and they are available everywhere.

    I like RPN, but the Casio textbook entry input works very well, and comes in handy when I have more important things on my mind.

    They also rank very highly for accuracy. []

  • RTFM, or in this case the rules governing the test. WE certainly have no idea what they are, since you neglected to mention which test you were standing.

    I would be astounded to find, if they forbid certain models/features, that they do not have a whitelist of allowed models. THAT's where you should start your product research, not here, not with a vague, un-actionable question.

    And Oh, By The Way, to echo another posters tongue in cheek remark, if you are in a scientific field, you really should know h

  • It was good enough to get Jim Lovell back from the moon, dammit.

  • Get a triumph adler []. If it's still not welcomed, then try a slide rule.
  • RPN calcs- esp 35s (Score:4, Informative)

    by jensend ( 71114 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @01:43AM (#45446815)

    Given that you like your 48, you might want to look at the details of the allowed calculator lists for the specific tests you have in mind and see which other HP RPN calculators would fit the bill.

    The 35s is allowed on a number of tests where fancier calculators aren't, including the NCEES. Not the cheapest, but capable. Its support for polar complex numbers covers what you seem to be asking for.

    It's the successor to the 33s, which had an odd keyboard but was otherwise ok, which in turn was the successor to the 32S/32SII. Those are still quite capable calculators if you find one around. Enough people considered the 42S to be the best calculator ever made that it goes for absurd prices on ebay.

    • Is there any little HP that has the unit conversion ability of the 48? That is the reason I still use my 48 G. You can quickly add any type of mixed units and carry them through your calculations and convert them easily. I've never seen anything better to this day.

  • Under 10$ in Radio Shack. Deg/Rad/Grad. statistics. nPr and nCr. R -> P and P->R, sin, cos, tan, arcsin, arccos, arctan, sinh, cosh, tanh, arctsinh, arccosh, arctanh, 18 levels of parenthesis, log, ln, exp, 10^(x), 1/x, sqrt, x^2, x^y, x^(1/y). All solar no batteries. Good softkeys. M+, M-, Sto/ MR. Don't know the model num because it is at work, and I am home.
  • I had a basic Casio (until my daughter made off with it) that sat on my desk beside my TI-89. For quick calculations I much preferred the Casio with its large clear numbers and nicer buttons. Plus it did various higher mathematical things fairly well. The key though is to read the manual as doing somethings such as working with polynomials was just weird.

    I think that I will go buy another as I do miss it.
  • demonstrates the bankruptcy of contemporary education.
  • and give it a command-line / greenscreen interface. Make it run in a shell on your android phone. And add an output "Copyright Rich0 1989" to the "- - version" option...
  • It's not really an answer to the Ask Slashdot question, but I don't see why one would want to use a non-approved programmed calculator.

    The point of a calculator during exams is that you have a single tool with well defined capabilities, so as not to get an unfair advantage above students using a different brand of tool. For actual (professional) engineering calculations you will use a computer with decent programming tools (matlab, python, C/C++, or whatever your favorite is). In my 22 years of university (

  • bah I modrated redundant.

  • In college (15 years ago), my scientific calculator was a Sharp EL-509 (now succeeded with the EL531; $10 from Amazon) Unlike most scientific calculators, the '509 did order of operations automatically so you didn't have to convert your input into "calculator order" ahead of time. Really, it gave me the most-needed features of a graphing calculator, but in a form-factor that professors always let me use.

    For my EE classes, the real benefit was not having to convert between vector and polar coordinates prio

  • by Fnord666 ( 889225 ) on Sunday November 17, 2013 @03:36PM (#45449733) Journal
    And Timmy strikes again by not posting an Ask Slashdot story to the Ask Slashdot section. Hey Timmy! They put those sections there and allow readers to filter by section for a reason. Quit being a fucking tool and post the stories properly. In other words, do your job.

Happiness is twin floppies.