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Ask Slashdot: Cheap Second Calculators For Tests?

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the do-the-beads-slide-smoothly? dept.

Math 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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328 comments

Calculator (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#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 (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446243)

Hi,

I'm too lazy/incompetent/stupid/other to come up with minimal competence with a search engine or a shopping site or product reviews or something like Consumer Reports. This is really my problem, for me to sort out on my own, but that's too scary since I am not enough of a person to confront even the shallowest of my own shortcomings. That is why I cannot produce an answer to such a trivial inquiry as "which 10-20 dollar calculator best meets my needs?". Even though this is my very own problem and no one else's, I wish to offload this problem onto the Slashdot community. By solving it for me, you will once agan enable me to avoid personal growth and the acquisition of basic problem-solving skills as so many before you have obviously done. You have my sincerest thanks for making my character flaws and personal failures that much more comfortable, because comfort is always the highest virtue and certainly easier, and thus more valuable to me, than growing or expanding my capabilities.

My sincerest thanks,
Rich0's Conscience and Heart of Hearts

Mod This Up! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446337)

Truth is often uncomfortable. So what? Think that makes it less true? Think that means it should never be said? Censorship you agree with is acceptable while censorship of what you like to say is tyranny, you hypocrites? Are you so shallow and small-minded as to think that whether you like the sound of a thing is the entire measure of its merit?

Where's the men and women of courage who would mod parent up? Did they tire of the groupthink and leave Slashdot for more fertile ground? Because the parent post is the TRUTH and I for one value that over any phony appearance of inoffensiveness. Try that sometime, if you are not faint of heart. It will enrich your life beyond expectation.

Re:Mod This Up! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446391)

There is a jerk just like you at my job. I'll ask coworkers for their opinion on a particular tool, and he has to but in and say, "You can just Google for the tool and find hundreds of them for sale." I don't ask my coworkers because I need a list of names, I ask them because I want their opinion, and usually specific to the type of work we do. Part of "growth" is just not knowing what is the most popular choice, but knowing the criteria people use when selecting a tool. And just like that jerk coworker, guys like you will complain how such requests for opinion and discussion waste your time by making you do other people's work for them, yet you have no problem spending way more time whining about wasting time than you would with actually moving on and doing whatever makes your time so important.

You want people to speak up, and not sugar coat things for the purpose of "inoffensiveness"? Well, the did, by down modding such garbage. You want to value honest expression over phony appearance, yet bitch when it turns out people disagree with you.

Re:Mod This Up! (4, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#45446421)

Thanks. I can obviously read Amazon reviews and such. However, I felt that the /. community probably had tastes more similar to my own, vs a bunch of kids taking algebra in high school/etc.

Re:Mod This Up! (1)

bev_tech_rob (313485) | about 8 months ago | (#45446779)

There is a jerk just like you at my job. I'll ask coworkers for their opinion on a particular tool, and he has to but in and say, "You can just Google for the tool and find hundreds of them for sale." I don't ask my coworkers because I need a list of names, I ask them because I want their opinion, and usually specific to the type of work we do. Part of "growth" is just not knowing what is the most popular choice, but knowing the criteria people use when selecting a tool. And just like that jerk coworker, guys like you will complain how such requests for opinion and discussion waste your time by making you do other people's work for them, yet you have no problem spending way more time whining about wasting time than you would with actually moving on and doing whatever makes your time so important.

You want people to speak up, and not sugar coat things for the purpose of "inoffensiveness"? Well, the did, by down modding such garbage. You want to value honest expression over phony appearance, yet bitch when it turns out people disagree with you.

Amen! Where are my mod points when I need them?

Re: Mod This Up! (1, Funny)

denmarkw00t (892627) | about 8 months ago | (#45446785)

Did you try Google?

Re:Mod This Up! (-1, Troll)

dcollins (135727) | about 8 months ago | (#45446647)

Slashdot is clearly not the place for you. Go here instead, it's more for people like you: http://www.timecube.com/ [timecube.com]

Re: Calculator (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446345)

you forgot the part where you say, what do you want to do that for nooooooob???!!!
all you have to do is get your desoldering iron out and remove the PIC chip and pop a few keys off!
it's even got a how-to with pictures on destroyperfectlygoodconsumerproducts.com

Re:Calculator (4, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45446435)

Stupid comment. The thing is that Google has become nearly unusable to find anything a bit more specialized, and in any case it does not give you an evaluation of fitness. Shopping site reviews are routinely censored or falsified in the first place. But I guess you main reason for not wanting to give an opinion is that you actually are not smart enough to have a well-founded one.

Re:Calculator (5, Informative)

skutterbob (2988851) | about 8 months ago | (#45446385)

I have a ti-36 solar... if you're taking the PE exam check the NECEES website,http://ncees.org/exams/calculator-policy/ 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 ;)

Re:Calculator (0)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45446441)

Well, not for anything, but any good engineer believes in redundancy.

PE exam you can do with a slide rule (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446457)

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 HP with RPN.. I'd strongly suggest finding another HP to use. Taking the test is enough of a mental challenge you don't want to be dorking around with your calculator trying to remember how to x^y instead of y^x

I second this suggestion (1)

Covalent (1001277) | about 8 months ago | (#45446423)

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.

Re:I second this suggestion (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#45446479)

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.

Re:Calculator (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 8 months ago | (#45446681)

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.

Re:Calculator (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 8 months ago | (#45446751)

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 ... ].

Re:Calculator (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 8 months ago | (#45446769)

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 memorisation element from the course.

* Three-phase in the UK is a nightmare. Different color schemes are in use depending when wireing went in. Get them mixed up and your expensive new industrial equipment goes bang.

Why limit calculator choices for tests? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446095)

Fuck doing math by hand, thats what computers are for!

I mean seriously, lets give everyone a TI-89 and teach them to use it!

Even better, make students learn a legitimate math software, like MathCAD or Maple or something

Why hold ourselves back?

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 8 months ago | (#45446179)

Because the programmable calculators can do more than just math.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446443)

Because the programmable calculators can do more than just math.

That is why they are EVIL and must be FEARED as the tools of Satan that they are! Only witches use them. BURN THE WITCHES!

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (4, Interesting)

curunir (98273) | about 8 months ago | (#45446485)

Yes they can, but is that a problem?

When I was in school, my math classes required the use of a graphing calculator (it was a private school, so they required students get either a TI-81 or TI-85). I discovered the TI Basic features and thought that I could ensure myself high test scores by simply writing programs that could solve all the types of problems that would be on the test--this wasn't illegal, provided we wrote our own programs. The first few times I did this, I fully intended to use them during the test, but I found that it was usually just quicker to solve the problem myself, though I'd occasionally check my answer using my program. It was basically impossible for me to instruct the calculator on how to solve the problem without fully learning how to do it myself. And it became clear to me that simply writing a program was the best method for me to study for tests. Prior to that, I would cram before the test and sometimes it would be sufficient and sometimes it wouldn't. But in writing the program, I could very easily tell when I was done studying and it took far less time than the traditional method. And, unlike cramming, programming was fun!

From the interest that I gained in programming TI Basic, I decided to take an intro to CS class the summer before my freshman year of college. That led to my majoring in CS and the fulfilling, enjoyable and well-paid profession that I've had for the past ~15 years.

I'm very grateful that my math teachers in high school didn't see things they way that you do.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 8 months ago | (#45446519)

So long as you had to write the programs yourself, that is fine. I'm more concerned about professional-style exams where there is a mix of math questions and questions where you are expected to recall the answer from memory.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446659)

I'm more concerned about professional-style exams where there is a mix of math questions and questions where you are expected to recall the answer from memory.

Well, those are just poorly made to begin with.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

EETech1 (1179269) | about 8 months ago | (#45446629)

That's the same thing my instructor said. You'll either get an A or an F, so If you're gonna trust your exam to a program, I'm sure you will understand the problem and test the program, and that will be the best study guide you could ever have.

As a bonus I got to check everyone else's tests (every one was different)

Cheers

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (2)

TWX (665546) | about 8 months ago | (#45446645)

The problem is that if highly-programmable calculators are permitted, test-prep companies like Kaplan will develop programs ostensibly for practice that would be based on reverse-engineered tests, change the test from measuring who is capable of handling this kind of engineering to who's capable of buying the "study materials" from Kaplan.

I can tell you, in the real world, I do not necessarily have access to documentation to do my technical job, I have to interpret what I see in front of me based on what I know and what I know how to do, not based on what I plug in to a device for an answer. I need to own the knowledge and the skills, not be in a position to constantly look them up for reference.

Once I've demonstrated an ability to know what skills need to be applied to a given situation, then it's not unreasonable to allow me to use tools, because I've already demonstrated that I understand what I am doing. That's why we have calculators in education in the first place, we stop doing multiplication, division, and trig after we've proven that we know how to do those.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (3, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 8 months ago | (#45446665)

If a math test can be easily defeated by a mere calculator, I don't think it's a test that tests for anything important, anyway. Math is not just a rote memorization exercise, but sadly, many (including schools and colleges) treat it that way. It's sad, but I think most tests are so poorly made.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

Ricochet (16874) | about 8 months ago | (#45446215)

For High School and early College degrees, knowing the basics helps later work when working with the more advanced tools. After learning (and being able to know) the basics then move into the more advanced tools. Both are needed. Generally when working on complex systems it's easiest to understand when it can be broken down into clear, demarcated segments. Overall it's complex but each individual segment is made up of basic understandable ideas. That way you don't need to look at everything all at once. This is the way much of networking works using the ISO reference model. Knowing the basics helps when you need to fall back

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

causality (777677) | about 8 months ago | (#45446267)

For High School and early College degrees, knowing the basics helps later work when working with the more advanced tools. After learning (and being able to know) the basics then move into the more advanced tools. Both are needed. Generally when working on complex systems it's easiest to understand when it can be broken down into clear, demarcated segments. Overall it's complex but each individual segment is made up of basic understandable ideas. That way you don't need to look at everything all at once. This is the way much of networking works using the ISO reference model. Knowing the basics helps when you need to fall back

It's the difference between knowledge and understanding. Our society often fails to value the latter, since it is not immediately useful in the short-term and requires a wise long-view to appreciate. This is very much to our collective detriment.

This. (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 8 months ago | (#45446405)

For High School and early College degrees, knowing the basics helps later work when working with the more advanced tools. After learning (and being able to know) the basics then move into the more advanced tools. Both are needed. Generally when working on complex systems it's easiest to understand when it can be broken down into clear, demarcated segments. Overall it's complex but each individual segment is made up of basic understandable ideas. That way you don't need to look at everything all at once. This is the way much of networking works using the ISO reference model. Knowing the basics helps when you need to fall back

It's the difference between knowledge and understanding. Our society often fails to value the latter, since it is not immediately useful in the short-term and requires a wise long-view to appreciate. This is very much to our collective detriment.

This.

And with that in mind, I'd suggest a #2 pencil.

If that's too much work, I;d suggest a slide rule.

Someone has to build the calculators.

Re:This. (1, Interesting)

causality (777677) | about 8 months ago | (#45446531)

For High School and early College degrees, knowing the basics helps later work when working with the more advanced tools. After learning (and being able to know) the basics then move into the more advanced tools. Both are needed. Generally when working on complex systems it's easiest to understand when it can be broken down into clear, demarcated segments. Overall it's complex but each individual segment is made up of basic understandable ideas. That way you don't need to look at everything all at once. This is the way much of networking works using the ISO reference model. Knowing the basics helps when you need to fall back

It's the difference between knowledge and understanding. Our society often fails to value the latter, since it is not immediately useful in the short-term and requires a wise long-view to appreciate. This is very much to our collective detriment.

This.

And with that in mind, I'd suggest a #2 pencil.

If that's too much work, I;d suggest a slide rule.

Someone has to build the calculators.

The part that bothered me back in high school is that they were never satisfied I had learned the fundamentals. Long after I had those down, years afterwards, I was forbidden from using advanced calculators for various tests and exams. I was treated as an imbecile who had no personal stake in his own education and betterment, to be trained and drilled rather than taught and instructed. Make no mistake, this is conditioning for subservience. I wish more people saw this for what it was and rejected it as I have done. I do not wish to be anomalous or unique or special in this regard. It is not a status symbol for myself. It is a lament for the masses.

Re:This. (2)

artor3 (1344997) | about 8 months ago | (#45446713)

You've gotta be kidding me. Drilling high schoolers on fundamentals is "conditioning for subservience"? No, you drill them so that they remember it.

No one, no matter how smart, can learn without practice. You need repetition to convince your brain that the information is worth storing.

Now, maybe you're a special snowflake who studied extra hard and learned the material on his own. But not every student is going to do that, and the teacher has no way of knowing who has really learned the material and who is just faking it to avoid being bothered.

Heck, you might not even really know if you've learned it. You might think you know it, but then you come upon a tricky question and realize there's a gap in your knowledge. It's better to have that happen in a class dedicated to the material, than it is to stumble upon that gap years later when you realize you're the only one in your graduate level engineering course who never really grasped taylor series expansions.

Re:This. (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 8 months ago | (#45446789)

I was one of those who self-studied in secondary school. Caused chaos at the maths and science exams. The problem is that the exam mark scheme doesn't just expect the right answer: If you get the answer wrong, it also gives marks for reaching various 'milestones' and completing vital steps in the process of working it out. This part of the scheme depends upon the student carrying out the calculations using the approved curriculum method. If the student uses an alternate method, their answers become all-or-nothing: Get the answer wrong and get no marks at all.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446507)

Speaking of technology and advancement... you know, I watch Star Trek shows. I see that there are generally NO fat chicks. Truly this is an advanced civilization!

If there is no foundation ... (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 8 months ago | (#45446229)

Fuck doing math by hand, thats what computers are for!

I mean seriously, lets give everyone a TI-89 and teach them to use it!

Even better, make students learn a legitimate math software, like MathCAD or Maple or something

Why hold ourselves back?

Using calculator to aid us resolve math problems faster by itself is not a problem

The problem being ...
 
... too many young uns (and the not-so-young uns) relying too much on the calculators because they do NOT have _any_ solid math foundation

Those who have solid math foundation, even with using high-end calculators would have the capability to sense if the answer is correct by instinct, for there is always the possibility of inputting the formula wrongly in the first place

Unfortunately, for those without solid math background, they will take _any_ answer appears on the screen, as they neither possess the solid math instinct, nor the knowledge if they have keyed in the right formula or not, in the first place

Re:If there is no foundation ... (2)

gweihir (88907) | about 8 months ago | (#45446459)

Indeed. And what comes out is "engineers" that make calculations that are wrong by an order of magnitude or two and do not notice. That is the reason why you also have to be able to do it by hand or with a simple calculator. If I were in charge of teaching engineering computing, proficiency with a slide-rule would be mandatory. People who can do that do not make large mistakes. (Unfortunately, nobody seems to make slide-rules anymore. But I inherited one, practiced a bit with it and was very impressed.)

Re:If there is no foundation ... (3, Interesting)

Gim Tom (716904) | about 8 months ago | (#45446583)

I got my BS in engineering in 1970 and except for shared Wang calculators for statistics and probability courses everything was slide rule. In 1973 I audited a graduate course at a different institution and the only two people in the class with slide rules were me and the professor. When the parameters in are only good to one or two significant figures, which is most often the case, a slide rule is more than accurate enough and since you have to keep track of the exponents you do get a much better feel for what is "right" and what is not. I still have my old K&E in its orange leather case and have actually bough a few others at yard sales and such over the years.

Re:If there is no foundation ... (3, Interesting)

foniksonik (573572) | about 8 months ago | (#45446621)

There are several slide rule apps available on Apple App Store - probably some Android apps out there too. Just saying they exist.

Re:If there is no foundation ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446557)

Those who have solid math foundation, even with using high-end calculators would have the capability to sense if the answer is correct by instinct, for there is always the possibility of inputting the formula wrongly in the first place

A lot of the time it can be just flat out faster to do things in your head than to use a calculator. The most extreme case is when I see college students get out a calculator to find the answer to things like 5+7 or 3*8. Knowing basic math means you can have the answer to these in less time than it takes to type it into the calculator. Even basic algebra can help simplify equations and save you from typing in a couple of the numbers when trying to get the final result.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 8 months ago | (#45446289)

Because somebody has to know how to build the calculator in the first place or you'll just end up kidnapping other people's children. [memory-alpha.org]

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

XanC (644172) | about 8 months ago | (#45446433)

Oh my that was a terrible episode.

Re:Why limit calculator choices for tests? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#45446483)

Well, if the government agency that defines the rules for this test wasn't stuck in the 50s, that might be an option...

My 2 cents (4, Informative)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 8 months ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446121)

AC checking in to second the TI-36X Pro. Get it.

Re: My 2 cents (4, Insightful)

bruno.fatia (989391) | about 8 months ago | (#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.

Re: My 2 cents (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 8 months ago | (#45446173)

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.....

Re: My 2 cents (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#45446489)

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...

Re: My 2 cents (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446283)

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.

Those fucking stupid polocks finally did something right other than surrendering to the Nazis like the cowardly French. How did RPN come about anyway? Did the polocks calculate "for every dead Nazi there'll be 10 dead polocks, shit, surrender, NOW!" or what? Necessity being the mother of invention and all.

Now if only the niggers would contribute something better than gangsta culture and voting for a president because of skin color, we'll be in better shape.

Re: My 2 cents (1)

srmalloy (263556) | about 8 months ago | (#45446591)

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.

Re:My 2 cents (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 8 months ago | (#45446195)

Do you know if the TI-36X Pro programming errors [wikipedia.org] have ever been fixed?

Re:My 2 cents (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446257)

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.

NCEES Calculator Policy (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446119)

Check out the NCEES Calculator Policy [ncees.org] .

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.

Re:NCEES Calculator Policy (2)

qubezz (520511) | about 8 months ago | (#45446217)

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

Re:NCEES Calculator Policy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446623)

Someone else had mentioned the HP35S, which is on that list, and the one I got for the FE exam. It's a RPN programmable calculator and at a fairly reasonable price. If you like your HP48, you'll like the HP35S, but as someone who hadn't used a HP calculator previously, I was a bit overwhelmed at first, but I've since got a HP48, and I don't know why anyone would want to use a calculator that isn't RPN.

Are you sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446123)

Are you certain your HP will not be welcome?

Re:Are you sure (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446241)

Thanks, that corrects the problem. Turns out the HP is fine and there is no value to this question after all. Thanks for the input!

HP-11C (3, Informative)

prz (648630) | about 8 months ago | (#45446125)

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.

Re:HP-11C (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about 8 months ago | (#45446189)

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!

Re:HP-11C (2)

Lije Baley (88936) | about 8 months ago | (#45446419)

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.

Re:HP-11C (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446615)

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.

The HP-11C was the second best pocket calculator in the early eighties. The number one at that time was the 15C (pocket calculator) but it was too costly for me. So I chose the HP-11C and after almost 30 years of continuous use it's still going strong. Hell in the back you could read "USA" as made in the US.
Ah old times when HP was an engineering company and made durable things.

Casio FX-85GT PLUS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446129)

Cost me $14 brand new, does "all and then some" in terms of my usage scenarios.

build one (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#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

Re:build one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446207)

oh right, dont forget the camera on the back to send copies of the text to your waiting
coterie of stooges

Four Function (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446175)

For "polar vector arithmetic and unit conversions," you will want a calculator with the following four keys: "+", "-", "x", "/".
If you're a complete math wuss, you can indulge yourself with square root, sine, and cosine buttons, too.
If you need much more than that for your listed items, then you shouldn't be worrying about a calculator. You should be learning the fucking material so you have the tiniest bit of understanding about what you're doing.

Re:Four Function (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446201)

The extra functions are for speed. Why have x and / when you already have + and -?

Re:Four Function (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446239)

For "polar vector arithmetic and unit conversions," you will want a calculator with the following four keys: "+", "-", "x", "/".
If you're a complete math wuss, you can indulge yourself with square root, sine, and cosine buttons, too.
If you need much more than that for your listed items, then you shouldn't be worrying about a calculator. You should be learning the fucking material so you have the tiniest bit of understanding about what you're doing.

Yeah! And while you're at it, chuck the electronic doo-dads, man-up, and get a slide rule.

Real math gods get by with an abacus. Make sure it has more than 6 beads per string so you can do hexadecimal.

Thrift stores (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 8 months ago | (#45446193)

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.

Casio FX991ES (2)

enter to exit (1049190) | about 8 months ago | (#45446199)

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.

Re:Casio FX991ES (1)

nicolastheadept (930317) | about 8 months ago | (#45446249)

I've got this one, reasonably common in the UK, about the most powerful calculator you're allowed to take into most exams.

Sharp calculators (1)

debile (812761) | about 8 months ago | (#45446227)

Always used them for 15 years. Lost one long time ago, bought the same again (current model).

sharp el-531w

Re:Sharp calculators (1)

EETech1 (1179269) | about 8 months ago | (#45446605)

I love my EL-9300. The solver is awesome, and I have hundreds of programs and equations in it. Still going strong for nearly 20 years!

Silly tests. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446247)

I really liked my software engineering class's exams: given online (but in person in the class room), internet allowed. Bring your laptop (or borrow a provided one)! Use anything other than specifically asking people. That class did not require pencils or paper, or books.

The idea that you need to be able to so something without references does apply to some fields I suppose, but it sure doesn't apply to me. I just need to know the topics well enough to know what to look up when, and to apply my findings. I'm not going to memorize implementations of everything; thats off in my brain's L4 cache: the internet.

Casio fx-115ES Plus (2)

The_Dougster (308194) | about 8 months ago | (#45446253)

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.

The king of SATs (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 8 months ago | (#45446259)

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.

Casio fx-992s (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446293)

That's what I used during high school (when all the other kids bought the TI-30 recommended by the school).
And it was still good enough for my maths degree, including some EE courses.

Sharp EL-W516 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446305)

Derivatives, integrals, matrixes, dec->hex->oct->bin conversions, fractions, equation solver(linear, quadratic, cubic), complex numbers, plus all the standard trig functions... Tons of features for a "cheap" scientific calculator. I don't know about certification exams but many classes that banned programmable calculators allowed me to use this and being able to check my derivatives was great. I have the older EL-W516B, which was less than $15 at Target, the newer models still cost less than $20 dollars. It's no TI-89, but it offers a lot of bang for the buck. By the way, it's not RPN like the HP48.

Casio fx-300MS (1)

Win Hill (1594463) | about 8 months ago | (#45446323)

I'm a big fan of the Casio fx-300 series. These days I'm using the fx-300MS, purchased at Staples, etc., for $10. http://www.staples.com/Casio-FX-300MS-Plus-Scientific-Calculator/product_403857 [staples.com] It's fine for scientific and engineering calculations, and although I'd prefer a programmable calculator, those aren't allowed for exams, and therefore aren't widely sold in stores. I have enough of the fx-300s around so there's always one at hand wherever I am, at home, at work, or at the bench. They must also be good enough for my scientific friends as well, because often when I'm in someone else's lab I see one lying around, and think I forgot and left my own there, only to discover, no, it's not mine.

WP 34S (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446329)

http://sourceforge.net/projects/wp34s/ also available from a couple of shops.
More features and capabilities than any non-graphing calculator (and more than most of them too).

And a comprehensive manual: http://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/wp34s/doc/Manual_wp_34s_3_1.pdf?r=http%3A%2F%2Fsourceforge.net%2Fprojects%2Fwp34s%2Ffiles%2Fdoc%2F&ts=1384657939&use_mirror=softlayer-dal

Approved calculators for NCEES exams (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 8 months ago | (#45446365)

The official list is here [ncees.org] .

Mom and dad (1)

Mister Liberty (769145) | about 8 months ago | (#45446371)

Made the best calculator.

Re:Mom and dad (2)

Trepidity (597) | about 8 months ago | (#45446521)

Yeah, but I don't think I'm allowed to bring my brother to the exam?

HP35S (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446375)

I used the HP-35s on the Civil PE exam, and it worked great. Has three lines in the stack, the RPN that you know and love on the HP-48, and plenty of build-in equations. No matter what calculator you decide to use, I recommend putting your normal calculator away for a few months prior to the exam and force yourself to use the exam approved one, this will greatly increase your speed with the new calculator.

HP-35S (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446395)

If you're coming from an HP48, get an HP35S. All old-timey key feel and RPN goodness you're used to for ~$50, brand new.

old school (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446409)

Use a sliderule

If you do RPN then... (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | about 8 months ago | (#45446431)

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
pixelqi.com 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 that does the right thing.

In this case the calculator could be as full featured
as the HP41cv or the HP-48 and beyond.

Re:If you do RPN then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446581)

You could always buy an updated HP-41 but it's going to cost you some $$$.
Around 500 $ if I'm not mistaken and yep it's only a1 line alphanumeric RPN programmable calculator.
No graphical display.

Otherwise you could opt for a nice re-released HP-15C.
Or a trusty HP-11C. Or any of the voyager series HP calculators.

In any case HP calculators wether new or old, graphical display or not command serious dough.
So forget 10-15 $ for an HP.

for tests? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446463)

what the fuck kind of second rate piece of shit school lets you use calculators on a test?!

Re:for tests? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446491)

This one: http://www.etsmtl.ca/ [etsmtl.ca]

They somehow managed to get their technicians to be recognized as engineers in Quebec.

Re:for tests? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about 8 months ago | (#45446687)

What kind of test is defeated by a mere calculator? A poorly designed one. If your college/university/school is giving you such tests, you may want to consider the possibility that it's simply abysmal.

Re:for tests? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446805)

Do you need a thesaurus and dictionary when you write a humanities exam too? Loser.

kind cumbersome, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446503)

I have a pretty nifty abacus that I've tricked out to do cartesian vectors. Polar mod is in the works. Kickstarter for it coming soon.

Casio FX-260 Solar (2)

pngwen (72492) | about 8 months ago | (#45446509)

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!

Fuck TI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45446527)

Get a Casio FX115ES-Plus. Does every-useful-thing a graphing calculator can with a $16 price tag.

Get a Casio! (3, Informative)

EETech1 (1179269) | about 8 months ago | (#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.

www.casio.com/products/Calculators_%26_Dictionaries/Fraction_%26_Scientific/FX-115ESPLUS/

They also rank very highly for accuracy.

http://www.rskey.org/~mwsebastian/miscprj/forensics.htm [rskey.org]

voidware.com/calcs/torturetest.htm

Re:Get a Casio! (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about 8 months ago | (#45446719)

Seconded.... I had a TI-85 in HS, an HP48GX in college engineering, then a few years ago when I took the FE/EIT exam, the prep guide forums recommended the Casio

http://www.amazon.com/Casio-Advanced-Scientific-Calculator-Textbook/dp/B000A3IAHM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384664856&sr=8-1&keywords=casio+calculator+scientific [amazon.com]

Sad that I haven't really had a chance to use any decent calculators in the "real world" outside of engineering examinations, though.

Incidentally, the NCEES FE reference guide is an awesome cheat-sheet for engineering math, physics, chemistry, etc.
http://cbt.ncees.org/get-the-new-fe-reference-handbook-for-cbt/ [ncees.org]
Which is awesome to carry around on your kindle or whatever "just in case"

Read the Certification Test rules, dumbass (1)

RedLeg (22564) | about 8 months ago | (#45446593)

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 how to use a sliderule, even in these days. There ain't no batteries on a slide rule to run out, or be unavailable, nor are you ever likely to ever take a test where the use of one is forbidden.

-Red

You already have one (1)

Reeznarch (2465314) | about 8 months ago | (#45446613)

I have heard of a thing, they call it a mind. Sure, they are a dime a dozen, and normally do not perform anything but the most mundane tasks. However, there are upgrade processes that one can perform on them that will allow even the most common mind to do amazing things!

Pickett N600-ES (1)

hey! (33014) | about 8 months ago | (#45446693)

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

Get a Triumph-Adler (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 8 months ago | (#45446733)

Get a triumph adler [vintagecalculators.com] . If it's still not welcomed, then try a slide rule.
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