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Scientific calculator

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What is a scientific calculator?

There are three main types of calculators: basic, business, and scientific (or engineering).

Basic calculators are widely used in high school math classes, and business or graphing calculators may be used in college economics or statistics courses.

But you can't perform chemistry or trigonometric operations on these calculators — they don't have essential features.

A scientific calculator is a tool for computing advanced mathematics, physics, chemistry, statistics, and engineering problems. It could be used on the computers with mouse or keyboard input, as a free online calculator, or as an electronic device.

Scientific calculators include exponents, log, natural log (ln), trig functions, and memory. These features are vital when you're working with scientific notation or any formula with a geometry component.

Basic calculators can do addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Business calculators include buttons for interest rates. However, they typically ignore the order of operations.

Scientific vs. Engineering Calculator

Both have the same function necessary to work with engineering, mathematics, and science problems. However, engineering calculators may have additional features, such as a wider display and a multi-replay function.

The main functions of scientific calculators

There are various kinds of problems that can be solved with the help of the Scientific Calculator:


You can do essential functions: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Note: the subtraction sign - is different from a separate negative function (-).


There are Basic Operations used for scientific calculations.

The most common things you can do are raising numbers to another power; finding a root of a number or formula or sine, cosine, or tangent function.


Scientific calculators have additional tools that allow you to work with exponents and logs, which require more memory to perform functions for the best results.

Almost any math course past grade school is used exponents, but only a scientific calculator can perform any algebraic function.

There may be other features like imaginary unit, factorial, natural exponential, base and decimal conversion, equation solving, inverse, scientific notation, constants library, etc.

Many of them have more digits than traditional calculators; natural textbook displays are helpful for high school and college students.

Technical buttons

How to Use a Scientific Calculator

To use the calculator effectively, ensure that you know the layout of the keys on the keypad and understand the data on display.


Depending on manufacturers and models, you may have different labels for your functions.

The number keys, keys for the basic operations, and the equals pressed to display the result are located on the lower part of the keypad.

The keys () used to insert brackets into a calculation can be found in the center of the row above the number keys.

A lot of keys have more than one use. The primary function of a key is printed on itself. The inverts or the second function is written above the key.

When you press the «Shift» button to access the second function, the symbol «S» appears on display to remind you that the button has been pressed. It disappears when you press another button.

Operations Order

Basic calculators are made for solving simple equations with one or two variables, but scientific calculators let you work on a problem with an order of operations.

If you input these equations into a standard calculator, it could not perform correct computation as it isn't designed to determine which symbols should be addressed first.

Entering the same equation into a scientific calculator will give you the correct answer. The parentheses are included as an option, allowing you to solve more advanced problems.

Negative Numbers

There are two different mathematical uses for the minus ( - ) and two other signs on the calculator:

Some calculators let the «-» symbol be used for both purposes, but others require the equivalent of the «(-)» symbol to be used for negative numbers.

Note: if you use the «(-)» symbol for subtraction, you will generate a Syntax Error.


Set up your calculator to use Math mode. You will see «Math» on the top of the display. In this mode, when the result is not a whole number, it will be displayed as a fraction, such as 2/3, wherever possible.

To enter a fraction, find a button with two boxes — the black on the top of a white — with a horizontal line between them.

Press the Fraction on the keyboard. Input the numerator and the denominator. Press the Equals. Write the fraction as a decimal and convert. You can toggle between the fractional and decimal outputs using the «S↔️D» button.

Square Roots

Different calculators provide various variants of the order you're supposed to press the buttons.

To take root:

  1. Find the square root (√) symbol on the keyboard.

  2. Press the Sqrt button, then input the number or input the number first, and then press the Sqrt button.

  3. Or to press the Sqrt button, press the «SHIFT» or «2ND» button, then Sqrt, then the number.


To perform calculations involving powers:

  1. Input the first number, press the «^» button, and enter the number to which you want to raise the first one.

For instance, to calculate «2²» — «2 raised to 2», type in «2^2», then press ENTER.

To ensure the symbol order is correct, make a simple test, as 2³. If you get eight as the answer, you did it in the right order. If you get nine as the value, then you did 3².

  1. Enter «x²» or «x³» buttons for squares or cubes.

They are used similarly to how you would write mathematics: for example, to enter «3²,» you would input «3» and «x².» The display also shows the maths the same way the user would write it in the textbook.

To calculate higher powers, for example, 2⁴, use the button «x².»

Other models of calculators may have the button «^» instead of the «x^» button and may not have specific «x²» and «x³» buttons.


Logarithms formulas help you calculate speed, area, etc.

Enter the «log» button to find the logarithm to base ten numbers.

Natural logarithm like ln2 can be evaluated using the «ln» button from your device's keyboard according to the order noted above.

Scientific Notation

Scientific calculators aren't made only for more complex math problems. For example, check the calculation of scientific notation. A standard calculator won't handle covering it for numbers that can’t be written in decimal point form because of their size.

Do a scientific notation:

  1. Find the «10^x +» on your device.

  2. Input your x value.

  3. Press the «Enter» button to receive the answer.

If the result of a calculation is a number greater than or equal to 10^10 (i.e., 10 000 000 000), the calculator will automatically display the result using scientific notation. For example, calculating 5^25 answers 2.980232239 × 10^17, which is displayed on the calculator screen as it is written here.

Small numbers are also automatically displayed using scientific notation, depending on the mode the calculator is working in:

‘Norm 1’ mode uses scientific notation for any number less than 0.01 but more significant than - 0.01.

‘Norm 2’ mode uses scientific notation for any number less than 0.000000001 but more significant than - 0.000000001.

Trigonometry Functions

When you use the SIN, COS, or TAN functions, remember two things:

To calculate the sine, cosine, or tangent of an angle, press the «sin,» «cos,» or «tan» button and then enter the size of the angle.

For instance, to find the sine with the argument of 30, input the «sin» then type in the argument 30 in parentheses, and you will get 0.5.

If you get -0.988, then your calculator is set to radian mode. To change to degrees, look for a «MODE» button. An indicator of units is written right up with the numerals in the display.

Usually, it's «D» for «degrees»; if it's «R» or «G,» then your calculator is set to use different units for measuring angles.

Fix Mistakes

The last entered symbol can be deleted using the «DEL» or «CE» («Clear entry») button. To re-evaluate edited calculations, simply press «=» any time.

But sometimes, it may be better to start again by pressing the «AC» («all clear») button.

Some modern calculators have tools like arrow keys to scroll through the original equation to edit the answer. Or have the entry line scrolling feature to review the history of previous entries to look for patterns within answers or simply retrieve answers to previous calculations.

If the calculations do not make mathematical sense and can not be calculated, «Syntax Error» will be displayed.

Other types of calculator errors are

Can You Compare Loans Using a Scientific Calculator?

You can use scientific calculators to do any mathematical research, but it's designed for science. All specific formulas can be found in the financial calculators, making the computations more convenient.

However, you can solve this problem with a scientific calculator if you know the interest rate and the loan amount.

Which scientific calculator is the best?

Most calculators help users calculate basic mathematic problems, fractions, statistics, etc. If the calculator can handle the mathematical problems in your discipline, you can choose it to speed up your work.

There is an option to use a free online calculator. This calculator has fewer buttons than a real one.

You can choose any company with the strongest reputation among customers, like Casio, Texas, HP, and Sharp. Some have solar-powered batteries, but most calculators require AAA or button cell batteries.

What is the difference between a calculator and a scientific calculator?

A scientific calculator has a lot of functions that a standard calculator does not have. It is designed to calculate advanced algebra, chemistry, physics, trigonometry, and engineering problems.

Is a TI 84 a scientific calculator?

It's the graphing calculator but also is a full-featured scientific calculator. It has all the necessary features such as sin, cos, tan, powers, roots, etc. In addition, TI-83 Plus or TI-84 Plus contains essential financial functions.