Difference Between Scientific And Graphing Calculator Explained

The scientific vs graphing calculator conundrum has been here for a while. There is no denying that calculators are an amazing technology, given they help students solve mathematical problems efficiently and quickly. Furthermore, having a high quality scientific calculator also helps increase students’ technical knowledge, making them more tech-savvy. 

While high school teachers recommend using a graphing calculator, middle school students often need scientific calculators. In competitive examinations like ACT and SAT, calculators can be the difference between success and failure. However, you also need to know about ACT approved calculator rules before making a buying decision. 

Well, that’s what we will discuss in the article so that it helps you to make an informed purchase. For a better idea on the topic, we also recommend reading our article on the difference between calculator and scientific calculator

Understanding different types of calculators is essential to proceed with the computation of various equations from measurements. The measurements are taken from several types of measuring tools that are noted for the exact equation. 

So, without further ado, let’s jump right in. 

What is a Scientific Calculator?

A scientific calculator is a type of electronic calculator designed to perform mathematical operations and functions commonly used in science, engineering, and mathematics. It includes functions like trigonometry, logarithms, exponentiation, and square roots. Unlike basic calculators, it can handle both simple and advanced computations.

What is a Graphing Calculator?

A graphing calculator is an advanced type of electronic calculator that can plot and graph functions, often on a dot-matrix display. In addition to the capabilities of a scientific calculator, it can visually represent functions, handle multiple equations simultaneously, and often support programming and the ability to store data or functions.

Both types are essential tools in various fields, but while a scientific calculator focuses on computation, a graphing calculator integrates both computation and visualization capabilities.

Scientific vs Graphing Calculator

Engineering design plan with engineering tools and scientific calculator - engineering theme photos collection. Difference between scientific and graphing calculator.

While many standardized tests limit the use of scientific calculators, others allow the students to select either graphing or scientific calculators. For instance, SAT lets students use a hand-held and either a scientific or graphing calculator, whereas AP allows both graphing and scientific calculators depending on the subject. 

Note that depending on the test level, each state has distinct calculator limits, although it is usually simply a scientific calculator or an option between scientific and/or graphing. Now, let us move on to the next few sections to learn how scientific and graphing calculators differ from each other:

1. Price

First, it is worth noting that scientific calculators tend to be more affordable than graphing calculators as the latter have much more storage capacity and functional capabilities. So, in terms of price, scientific calculators are a clear winner. 

2. Color

A few models of graphing calculators, such as the fx-CG50 and fx-CG10, feature colored displays, thereby helping users differentiate visually between graphs. On the other hand, scientific calculators don’t have a colored display.  

3. Screen Size

Graphing calculators have much larger screens when compared to scientific calculators. Not to mention, they are larger in overall build as well.  

4. Equation Solving

While scientific calculators can solve simultaneous equations or polynomials of limited functions, graphing calculators can effortlessly solve inequalities and equations in multiple ways. This makes the latter a better choice than the former when it comes to equation solving.  

5. Statistical Calculations

Now, as far as statistical calculations are concerned, scientific calculators can do regressions and statistical calculations, but their abilities are limited. On the other hand, graphing calculators can do the most advanced statistical calculations with ease in addition to the basic ones.    

6. Programming

More often than not, graphing calculators can do programming, which could prove helpful in computer science classes. The fx-9750GIII, one of the latest graphing calculators from Casio, has Python programming as an extra feature, whereas scientific calculators do not have programming options.

7. Availability Of Functional Capabilities

Scientific calculators can perform permutation, integration and differentiation, combination, ratio, and prime factorizations. On the other hand, graphing calculators feature more options and functionality. For instance, the capability to perform dynamic graphing, exam modes, e-activities, spreadsheets, and much more.   

Even though there are more differences between scientific and graphing calculators, these are the most basic ones. In conclusion, graphing calculators have more functional capabilities than scientific calculators, with the most common example being the capability of visualizing and graphing.

Which Is Better, Scientific or Graphing Calculator?

A scientific calculator would do the job if you are in middle school and need help in statistics, engineering, and algebra. However, a graphing calculator would be a wiser investment if you have to solve higher levels of mathematical problems such as calculus, precalculus, and algebra 2.

Your teacher will most likely specify what type of calculator you will need on the school supply list, so no worries. Note that free online calculators are available as well, but you may not have access to the Internet, so we suggest using a physical one. 

Casio is one of the best scientific calculator brands available; you can consider going for it. 

What are the different types of calculators available on the market?

The different types of calculators available on the market are: 

  • Basic calculators
  • Desktop calculators
  • Financial calculators
  • Printing calculators
  • Online calculators
  • Scientific calculators
  • Graphing calculators
  • Mechanical calculators
  • Pocket calculators
  • Solar-powered calculators
  • Phone calculators

When to avoid using a calculator?

Regardless of your grade, you must avoid using a basic calculator to perform operations such as multiplying, subtracting, adding, and dividing. Even though you most likely have progressed beyond learning arithmetic, it is a skill you would not want to lose. 

When you start depending on calculators, your mental math skills will weaken, which is one of the most useful skills in everyday life. 

With that, we have come to the end of our informational guide. Hopefully, by now, you know the differences between a scientific and graphing calculator and are ready to make an informed purchase. Keep in mind that both of them are equally good, but graphing calculators have the edge because they have a larger screen and can solve higher levels of trigonometric functions.

So, decide based on your requirements and what your teacher suggests. 

On that note, it’s time for us to call it a day. Until next time, take care!

Leave a Comment