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Scientific calculator in the US

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What is a Scientific Calculator?

There are four types of electronic calculators: basic calculators, business calculators, and scientific and graphing calculators. A basic calculator is used for standard operations: it can perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division calculations. Business calculators are used for financial calculations. Its keyboard includes buttons for interest rate, amortization, etc.

A scientific calculator is an electronic device used to perform complex mathematical operations. It is designed for problems posed by physics, chemistry, engineering, and trigonometry. It comes in the form of an online calculator or a portable handheld device.

Graphing calculators can be used in the same fields as a scientific calculator, but they have a graphic representation of the input on display.

Scientific vs. Engineering Calculator

Scientific calculators are typically used to calculate trigonometric functions, exponentials, and logarithms. A calculator allows scientists and other users to skip several steps in accessing these functions. Naturally, the device is also used for complex calculations. Astronomers can determine tremendous distances with it. Chemists can operate very small molecular numbers.

Apart from high-end academia, calculators are widely implemented in high school and college. They are a required instrument for classes that imply calculations. Some calculator models are even specifically designed to enter textbook problems and transform them into standard input.

Engineering calculators are scientific calculators. However, they need to have all the advanced features, for example, a wide display, multi-replay function, numeric, polynomial, and linear equations, to be suitable for engineering purposes.

The Main Functions of Scientific Calculators

Each model can slightly differ from one another in terms of design, button names, and advanced options available, but most scientific calculators have the following functions.




Technical buttons

Scientific calculators with one-line displays typically have fewer functions available than those with matrix displays. A matrix display is similar to that of graphing calculators and allows for more complex multilayered operations.

How to Use a Scientific Calculator?

A handheld scientific calculator comes with a thorough manual describing its key features. We recommend studying it for a better understanding of your specific calculator model. If you use an online calculator, you will most certainly find a 'how to use' guide on the webpage.

Here are some tips on how to operate a scientific calculator.


First and foremost, you can study the keyboard and what units it is divided into. There are digits (from 0 to 9), basic arithmetic operations (including powers and roots), function keys (e.g., sin, cos, tan, log, exp), service buttons (on, mode, cursor control, shift, delete, and all clear).

We recommend you try to press different buttons to learn what they do from experience. If you use an online calculator, make sure to choose the most convenient input method for you: computer keyboard or mouse click. The default settings are usually mouse/touchpad clicks.

Order of Operations

It is important to learn how your calculator determines the order of operations. For example, you need to calculate 8 + 7*2. The correct answer is 22 because multiplication is done before the addition. The calculator might be programmed differently and calculate 8 + 7 first. To avoid this, you should put 7*2 in parentheses: 8 + (7 * 2).

Negative Numbers

An important side note on the minus sign. A scientific calculator typically has two different keys for subtraction and negative numbers. The negatives' minus is depicted included in parentheses: (-).


You need to press the fraction template button and enter the numerator first, and then, by navigating down with cursor control, enter the denominator.

Square Roots

You should either press the digit and then press sqrt, or vice versa. Find out how your calculator works.


With powers, it is also important to know the correct order for your calculator. For instance, you can click number 3 - power key - number 4. If the answer is 81, then 3 is raised to the power of 4. But it can also be 64 because 4 raised to the power of 3. Experiment and learn the peculiarities of your calculator's keyboard.


Logarithms to base 10 are to be found under the 'log' key. Natural logarithms can be accessed by pressing the 'ln' button.

Scientific Notation

The result of your calculations can be as large as 10 raised to the power of 10. In this case, the calculator will automatically display the number as a scientific notation. Moreover, you can input such numbers using a scientific notation button (usually placed at the bottom of the calculator).

Trigonometry Functions

Degrees or Radians

At the top of the display, you can see the letters D or R. They indicate which units are used to express the angles. To change one to another, click SHIFT + MODE.


Once again, it is crucial to know what to enter first: number or function. If you enter 60, press COS and the result is 1/2, then this is the correct order. If it doesn't work, try pressing the function first and then enter the number.

Fix Mistakes

You can use the cursor control button to shift to the place in the equation that requires correction. Button DEL is the one you would use to erase one symbol, and if you press AC, you will clear the whole display.

Can You Compare Loans Using a Scientific Calculator?

A loan cost is determined by several elements: interest rate, origination fee, loan amount, and amortization. There are specific financial (business) calculators that can be used to calculate each of these elements.

A scientific calculator is also suitable for that purpose. If the lender disclosed the information about the interest rate, monthly payments, and additional fees, you can calculate all of that and compare the conditions with other loans.

For example, a $10,000 loan with 6% APR and a 5-year loan term will cost you $193.33 a month and a total of $11,599. The same amount loan at a different financial institution with a 6.25% interest rate and a $100 origination fee will cost you $194.49 a month and $11,769 in total.


Which is the best scientific calculator?

The TI-36X model is a very high-quality scientific calculator and is suitable for engineering purposes. It has a four-line display and multiple simultaneous calculation options.

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

A scientific calculator can not only operate basic arithmetics but has features like logarithmic and trigonometric functions, equation solving, exponential functions, etc.

Is a TI 84 a scientific calculator?

Yes. It has functions like sin, log, cos, and exp available, and it is also a graphing calculator.