Introduction to Graphic Calculators


A graphic calculator is special type of calculator that is able to sketch graphs, solve equations and perform other more complicated mathematical operations. Your maths syllabus may require you to use a graphic calculator in your senior years in high school. This short introduction will outline how to effectively use your graphic calculator for a range of different problems. Please note that this tutorial is demonstrated on a Texas Instruments TI-84 calculator. However, this lesson also applies to most other graphic calculators but the layout may be slightly different. Calculating This is a pretty obvious technique that is just included for completeness. Of course you can use your graphic calculator to perform various calculations. To do this simply use the numbers and operation signs. Here are some useful buttons that will help you: SIN / COS / TAN : These allow you to solve trigonometrical problems. SIN^-1 / COS^-1 / TAN^-1: The inverse of SIN/COS/TAN. These are usually found under 2ND > SIN / COS / TAN To the power of (^) : The to the power of symbol allows you to square numbers, cube number, etc. (....) : Brackets can be used to make sure that the order of operation of the calculation is right. √ (sqrt) : The square root symbol allows you to square root numbers. LOG : Logarithm base 10 LN : Natural log (logarithm base e) ← → (arrows) : arrows allow you to move around the calculation and delete or insert parts.

MATH button

The MATH button on your graphical calculator offers you various additional features. The most important ones include: Frac : transforms a decimal into a fraction Dec : transforms a fraction into a decimal 3√( : Cube roots numbers x√( : Allows you to chose the type of root (eg: square root, cube root, etc.) logBASE ( : allows you to find the log of something to any base Solver... : Allows you to solve equations

Sketching Graphs

This is probably the most important function of your graphic calculator. Graphing a function not only gives you an idea of what the graph looks like but it also allows you to solve certain problems such as inequalities and quadratics. For sketching graphs it is highly profitable to have a graphic calculator with a colour display as this will allow you to distinguish between different lines.

Entering the Function

To enter a function into your graphic calculator, use the Y= button. The panel underneath will come up. Now, all you have to do is type the function(s) you want to graph next to the Y1=. You can enter up to 8 functions that can be plotted on one graph. To type x click hit button seen underneath: Once you have typed in the function, press ENTER.

Graphing the Function

Once you have typed in all your equation in the Y= tab, all you have to do is hit the GRAPH button. The graphs my take several second to sketch. You may not be able to see your graphs very well or they may even be completely outside the range of the axes. This can be solved by adjusting the zoom.


To change the zoom hit the ZOOM button Here you have a list of options the most useful ones are: ZBox: Allows you to make a box around the section you want to zoom into (enter > draw box > enter) Zoom In / Out: Zooms in our out ZStandard: Returns to standard zoom ZTrig: Zoom for trigonometrical graphs ZFit: Zooms to automatically fit the graph onto the coordinate grid


To calculate thinsg from yor graph, hit 2nd > TRACE (CALC) Here you have a list of things you can calculate. Most of these settings require you to select right and left bounds afterwards on the graph. The most important ones are: value: allows you to select an x-coordinate. The calculator will then tell you the y-coordinate. zero: finds axes intercepts (zeros) on the graph (must select bounds) min/max: allows you to find local minima and maxima (must select bounds) Intersect: allows you to find the point where two graphs intersect

Table (Alternative to Graphing)

If you want to see specific values instead of a graph you can use the table function 2ND > GRAPH (TABLE) Here you can then see the x values and corresponding y values for all the functions you have entered. In some cases, this may be more useful than viewing the actual graph.

MODE (Settings)

To change general settings hit the MODE button. The following are common settings you may want to change: Change calculator type: Switch between NORMAL / SCI / ENG Units (angles): Change between Radians & Degrees Answer (format): Choose whether you want your answers to be displayed in AUTO (calculator decides depending on the answer), decimals or fractions. Set date & time: Change the date and time your calculator uses.


These are the basics that you should master when using your graphic calculator. Make sure you check back from time to time for more detailed tutorials regarding graphic calculators. Make sure to check out our library for more lessons.
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Chapter 36:  Learning Outcomes Students will be introduced to graphic calculators! Students will learn about the basic functionalities of graphic calculators!



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