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Remember Your Old Graphing Calculator? It Still Costs a Fortune — Here's Why


There's no reason they should cost so much, and it's shutting out students who can't afford them. Just thispast week, Amazon started selling Internet-capable Kindle tablets for $50 each. But a new TI-84 still runs a retail price of $100, and classrooms that use TI-Nspires (the newest addition to the TI line) are shelling out $140 a pop — about the price of a brand new Chromebook. All for a calculator that is older than the .MP3 file extension.

Worse, the calculator is starting to show its age. "Perpendicular lines don't look perpendicular because the window is a rectangle," one Texas-based math teacher told Mic. 

Even buying a TI-series graphing calculator for a reseller at a major discount can't compete with the Casio-made alternatives, which sell for $50.

Lochel told Mic, "I tell kids when they buy graphing calculators, 'You know what the difference between TI and Casio is? Marketing.'"

This cost can be prohibitive for students who can't afford to shell out over $100 for a graphing calculator, and anyone who's ever had one stolen knows they're a hot commodity. The way Texas Instruments works with testing companies, standards boards, complicit teachers and textbook publishers is reinforcing the achievement gap between upper-middle-class students and everyone else.

Some schools that have the budget to provide graphing calculators in every classroom, and can even sign them out for students when they have to take a standardized test. But that's not the case for schools without the economic means. Vernon, a teacher in the South Bronx, told Mic that he's not sure if his school could afford alarge volume of calculators for their classroom, which is why his class uses free apps that do the jobs just fine.

There's an app for that — if it can manage to unseat the reigning king of calculation. It's called Desmos, anonline calculator and mobile app that has all of the graphing functions of a graphing calculator. Desmos' business model is the opposite of Texas Instruments'. Desmos CEO Eli Luberoff charges companies like Pearson and College Board for integrating the app with the website, while the app is totally free for students and teachers.



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Yeah, there really is no reason it should cost that much. 

No wonder they get stolen so much. 

Hopefully the app can put price pressure on it.



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