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I'm taking an AP Calculus AB class, for which I need a graphing calculator.

Requirements:

  • Last for a reasonably long time (measured in weeks with ~1hr/day of medium use) on batteries, I don't want to be feeding it all the time
  • Have statistical capabilities, I'm TAing an AP Statistics class this year
  • Be usable on an AP exam (for non-USA people, the College Board has very specific guidelines on what calculators are allowed. I'm specifically intested in the policy for AP Calculus AB). I don't want the test trolls to steal my calculator and leave me helpless on the test.
  • Be reasonably rugged, meaning I can throw it in my backpack without worry
  • Be reasonably fast, meaning I'm not sitting there drumming my fingers during a test while it chews on something
  • Be within a budget, ideally < $150. Much less would be appreciated.

Would-be-nice:

  • Have a rechargeable battery, built in or otherwise
  • Color display, but battery life comes first
8

TI-89

I own a TI-84 (see Undo's answer), but my school provides students with TI-89s (TI-89 Titanium, specifically) for math classes, which I find to be much more useful. I used it throughout my AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC classes, as well as for other AP sciences. It's quite handy.

•Last for a reasonably long time (measured in weeks with ~1hr/day of medium use) on batteries, I don't want to be feeding it all the time

I recharged my school-issued TI-89 once over the course of a school year.

•Have statistical capabilities, I'm TAing an AP Statistics class this year

The specifications page quotes the TI-89 as having

Statistics plots including scatter, xy-line, box and modified box plots. Histograms and regression lines are available.

I haven't used these functions myself, but I've heard that they are helpful.

•Be usable on an AP exam. I don't want the test trolls to steal my calculator and leave me helpless on the test.

TI-89s are allowed on the exam.

•Be reasonably rugged, meaning I can throw it in my backpack without worry

I have yet to do an intentional drop test, but my classmates and I have inadvertently done many in the past. The case improves the calculator's resistance to damage.

•Be reasonably fast, meaning I'm not sitting there drumming my fingers during a test while it chews on something

The TI-89 is reasonably fast, so long as you don't throw a complicated integral at it. But even Wolfram Alpha would be hard-pressed to quickly solve something that complicated (I've tried!).

•Be within a budget, ideally < $150. Much less would be appreciated.

TI-89s are expensive, but typically a bit under $150 (see here, for example, at $142.48).

•Have a rechargeable battery, built in or otherwise

I've never used a TI-89 with rechargeable batteries, but I don't know that they won't work.

•Color display, but battery life comes first

The TI-89 does not have a color display.

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  • 2
    It wasn't mentioned as a requirement, but it's worth noting that the TI-89 is not permitted on the ACT, where the TI-84 is. – Mark Sep 14 '15 at 22:06
  • @Mark True. A scientific calculator would be fine there (or on the SAT), but more capabilities is often a plus. – HDE 226868 Sep 14 '15 at 22:07
7

I've been using the TI-84 Plus Silver Edition for the last few years:

enter image description here

  • Last for a reasonably long time (measured in weeks with ~1hr/day of medium use) on batteries, I don't want to be feeding it all the time

I've gotten months at a time out of it, but I haven't been able to get a good idea of the real maximum battery life on it because I replace the batteries (4, AAA) before every test that matters.

  • Have statistical capabilities, I'm TAing an AP Statistics class this year

I used it throughout AP Stats last year, and the curriculum was based on the student having a TI-83/84. This calculator seems to be the standard that they write the books to.

  • Be usable on an AP exam. I don't want the test trolls to steal my calculator and leave me helpless on the test.

I've used this on every test I've taken, from an AP Stats test to the SAT and ACT.

  • Be reasonably rugged, meaning I can throw it in my backpack without worry

That's what I've been doing for the last few years, and it looks brand new.

  • Be reasonably fast, meaning I'm not sitting there drumming my fingers during a test while it chews on something

This is my main gripe. It's fast... enough. You'll still notice a delay when solving some problems, especially ones involving statistical regression, which really shouldn't be there in 2015.

  • Be within a budget, ideally < $150. Much less would be appreciated.

Available for ~$140 at various stores, but when I bought it a few years ago I seem to remember getting it at Wal-Mart for ~$110. Shop around a little bit.

Also, there is now a version of the calculator with a color display, the TI-84 CE. I don't have any experience with it, so I can't provide a recommendation.

Relevant:

enter image description here

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