# Using Your Graphing Calculator

*Graphing calculators, such as the ones sold at Schoolmart, are valuable tools for math, science and technology applications; however, those who are new to using graphing calculators may find them intimidating. Here, the educational technology experts at Schoolmart provide tips and tricks for using your graphing calculator to its fullest potential. *

A graphing calculator is a powerful tool for helping students to better understand STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts. Capable of far more functions than a standard calculator, graphing calculators can help students to create, identify and solve expressions, formulas and graph-related problems. It is important for students and educators to understand how to use their graphing calculators, in order to get the most use and potential out of them. Here are a few tips and tricks when using a graphing calculator. Please note that these tips should apply to the majority of graphing calculators, such as the TI series, HP and Casio calculators.

**Set the Calculator’s Mode Appropriately**

Different equations will require answers in different modes, such as degrees, radians, scientific and more. There should be a button on your graphing calculator labelled MODE. Pushing this button will allow you to set your calculator to the appropriate mode for the task at hand—if an answer the calculator provides seems incorrect, ensure the calculator has been set to the proper mode.

**Create Y-Solvable Graphs**

Graphing calculators are set to solve equations where “y” can be found. If you try to have the calculator graph an equation where “y” cannot be found, the calculator will not graph the equation.

**Know Your Calculator’s Shortcuts**

Graphing calculators are full of shortcuts that make computing and solving formulas and equations faster and easier. Many of these shortcuts can be found under the graphing menu of your calculator. Read the manual that comes with your graphing calculator to take advantage of these shortcuts. For example, did you know that your calculator can turn a decimal into a fraction? On most models, you only need to click the MATH key, find where it says “FRAC,” and hit enter, and the decimal you originally had will be converted into a fraction if there is an acceptable way to do so.

**Understand How Parentheses Work in an Expression**

Graphing calculators will automatically perform order of operations when solving an equation or expression; however, most calculators require the use of grouping parentheses to accurately solve problems. For example, when determining a square root, graphing calculators will require the use of parentheses to determine what you need to find the square root of—the square root of two times 15 would look like . Without the parentheses, the graphing calculator would only find the square root of two, and then multiply the answer by 15.

**Discuss the Best Graphing Calculator Choice for You with a Knowledgeable Sales Staff**

If you are overwhelmed by the graphing calculator choices available to you, or simply have a question about how to use your recently purchased calculator, enlist the help of Schoolmart’s friendly and helpful sales staff, who have extensive knowledge on graphing calculators and other products available at Schoolmart. For more information about how we can help, contact us today!