Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. Why Trust Us?
If you or your kids are preparing for an advanced math or science course, you’re going to need a graphing calculator. These handy machines can process complex calculations (and simple ones), including graphing multiple equations at once, all displayed on the large screen. They can even store important equations and help you learn topics like trigonometry.
These mini computers cost more than the scientific calculators you’ve used in earlier math classes, but they’re capable of so much more—including downloading apps and processing 3D figures—and they’re a necessity for many math classes.
If you can’t afford to spend upwards of $100, or don’t want to invest just for one class, don’t fret. There are free, online graphing calculators like this one from Desmos—but you’ll realize quickly that having a physical calculator is much more efficient for frequent use.
These are the best tools to crunch numbers and solve equations with and without gridlines. Whether you’re studying math in middle school or college, tuck one of these in your backpack for the school season.
The Best Graphing Calculators
- Best Overall: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus Graphing Calculator
- Best Budget: Casio fx-9750GIII
- Best Value Color: Casio PRIZM FX-CG50 Color Graphing Calculator
- Best Premium Model: Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II Color Graphing Calculator
- Best for Beginners: TI-83 Plus Graphing Calculator
What to Consider
Graphing calculators have more advanced capabilities for higher-level math than scientific calculators, with larger, more dynamic screens for graphing functions and plotting coordinates. Some graphing calculators can take a student from middle school pre-algebra through to college calculus, but younger kids may be overwhelmed by having too many features at their disposal—plus graphing calculators are heavier than scientific calculators.
Teachers may recommend using a specific brand and model of graphing calculator, particularly for students in lower grades. For older high school students, remember that only certain calculators are accepted for various AP and college entrance exams. Consult College Board’s official website for a list of approved graphing calculators for AP exams.
Graphing calculators feature either black-and-white or color LCD screens, the latter of which is a nice (but not always necessary) upgrade. Many have rechargeable batteries and offer USB connectivity for downloading functions or apps, while others come pre-loaded with extra apps. All of the graphing calculators we recommend come ready to use for most math classes, but you should check your syllabus to see if you need any extra features.
How We Selected
To find the best graphing calculators, we combed through customer reviews and consulted expert sources. We considered our own schooling experiences with graphing calculators as well. We included a range of calculators to suit students at different grades, from middle school to college, plus models that span various price points, and with color and black-and-white displays. We also compared and highlighted features for every graphing calculator.
Kevin Cortez is a Commerce Editor for Popular Mechanics, Bicycling, and Runner’s World. A culture and product journalist for over ten years, he’s an expert in men’s style, technology, gaming, coffee, e-bikes, hiking, gear, and all things outdoors. He was most recently the style editor for a leading product-recommendation site and previously covered music and podcasting at Mass Appeal, Genius, and The A.V. Club. His work can also be seen in WSJ, Leafly, Input, and Vulture. He enjoys reading graphic novels, birding, and taking long, meandering walks in his spare time.
Alex Rennie is a freelance writer who specializes in the Home Improvement, DIY, and Tool space. As a former residential and commercial carpenter, Alex uses his hands-on experience to write practical buying guides, how-to articles, and product reviews. His work has also appeared in Business Insider's Insider Picks, and before his writing career, he was a full-time carpenter living in New York City. There, he worked as part of a team designing, building, and installing large furniture pieces, as well as performing a variety of home repair and maintenance projects. Alex currently lives in Los Angeles, CA, and spends his free time exploring the beaches and mountains with his fiancé and their dog Louie.
Rachel Klein is a Senior Commerce Editor for Popular Mechanics, where she writes about everything from garden hose reels and patio furniture to mesh wifi systems and robot vacuums. She started her career as a daily newspaper reporter and was a travel editor for more than a decade before she started testing and reviewing luggage, noise-cancelling headphones, and other travel-related products. Fast-forward another five years and her area of expertise includes home decor, appliances, tech, and outdoor adventure gear. In her spare time, you'll find her planning her next trip, reading historical fiction, and seeing as much art as she can squeeze into a weekend.
The 8 Best Laptops for Work and Play
The Best Calculators for Work and School
8 Great Laptops for College
How To Replace Your Laptop Battery