|Re: Graphing Calculator suggestion|
Message #12 Posted by Matthew W. Milligan on 28 July 2007, 8:50 a.m.,
in response to message #8 by Vincze
I am a long-time high school physics teacher and long-time HP calculator user and fan. My school also strongly recommends TI graphing calculators and it has been years since I saw a student carrying an HP. So I have been forced to learn how to use TI calculators and I am very familiar with the graphing models and spend a good deal of class time interacting with students as they use TI calculators. In the meantime I refuse to stop using HP so my students must think I am a freak (and are sometimes a little in awe) when I am brandishing my 48g or 49g+ (or soon my 50g).
On TI calculators: Over the years I have come to respect TI calculators. These are reliable, well designed machines. I believe TI calculators are easier to use for graphing than HP. The programming languages are fairly complete and easy to use - very similar to BASIC. In my mind there are really only a couple of disadvantages. The buttons are indeed "mushy" in a sense, because there is no "click" or "tactile feedback", if you will, as on HP models. On the other hand, I have never seen a TI graphing calculator that missed key strokes or doubled them as some recent HP's have been known to do. The biggest disadvantage to TI in my mind is the reliance on parentheses to enter complex calculations - I see it all the time, students missing problems for lack of or misplacement of parentheses.
On HP calculators: As I mentioned I am firmly an HP fan. (I may be unusual because I can find merits in TI.) Advantages for HP are the opposite of the disadvantages for TI mentioned above; the tactile feedback of the keys and RPN (or RPL) entry. In particular, based on your comments about truly understanding math and an interest in MIT, I would think the "HP way" would be desirable. As you probably well know, when solving a problem with RPN you must think about order of operations, you can see intermediate results, and you do not need parentheses. This forces one to really think about what the calculator is doing. The programming on HP is very different from TI. It is not BASIC but rather RPL, which is very similar to RPN in that you basically mimic the keyboard strokes that you would press on the calculator to achieve the desired result. One disadvantage is the rather steep learning curve for recent HP graphing models and lack of a comprehensive and well written manual. Also, as implied above, working with graphs is a bit awkward and counterintuitive (I hate to say it but I usually grab a TI if I need to do some graphing).
Now a few particulars. The TI 83/84 line is easiest for most students to use and these are solid well established calculators. The TI 89 and HP 49/50 calculators are tougher to learn how to use and also have Calculator Algebra Systems (CAS) that can solve equations, derivatives, integrals, series, etc. (Something I suspect you would frown upon based on your comments.)