Dollar-store calculators can be loads of fun. In a pinch, having an inexpensive calculator in the car or in your briefcase is never a bad idea.

But there comes a time when your homeschooler needs a better one. That time may come sooner than you think — usually somewhere between 2nd-5th grades, depending on the child and the level of mathematics you teach.

During the elementary years is when your child will need to learn 2 things: how to properly use a calculator, and how to check work. Because dollar-store calculators cannot do everything that kids need to do in math, and they are usually unreliable anyway (expiring at the most inconvenient times), it’s important to have a good calculator ready at home.

Buying a calculator early is a good idea since there is no sense in having to learn twice — have your child learn on the calculator she’ll be using throughout the remainder of her school years.

Families and teachers seem to agree that *Texas Instruments* (TI) makes a good calculator. With calculators for every application in all price ranges, homeschoolers will always find a TI calculator to meet their needs.

For the lower grades, something in the 30+ range will usually do the trick. A calculator like this one will probably do through most of middle school:

For high schoolers, particularly those who take honors, AP or college dual enrollment math, a more sophisticated model is needed. A graphing calculator in the 80+ range and upwards will probably be sufficient:

Texas Instruments has a chart available on the web site to help you choose the right model for every level math course that homeschoolers are likely to take.

Plan to spend $20+ for lower grades and $100 or more for upper grades. Despite the price, this investment proves to be well worth it as these last a long time and can be used by multiple children for many years.

Finally, keep calculator instructions in a safe place. You’ll never know when you or your student forgets how to input a certain type of equation or cannot locate a function. While the instruction manual isn’t usually needed in lower school, it can be a life-saver once the kids get older.

Alicia Conway says

Kids do like playing with calculators and if they are going to play with them then they should know to do it right, this is true. However, children should learn mental math in elementary years and how to work and check sums on paper not to use a calculator. There is a whole generation of kids now who can’t go to the store and figure their total with sales and taxs in their heads! If they don’t have a calculator they are lost, at this point basic math is much more important then if they know how to whip out their graphic calculator and and work a trig. problem. Futhor more go back 50 years the highschool students of the day did not have calculators and did just fine. I think that you should not use calculators till there just seems to be no other way. I am not saying that they need to be like the great math minds of the past and go through Trig and Calca. with out a calculator (I’ll cut the kid some slack) but a calculator for basic math and even basic Algebra is just another way to dumb things down.

Alicia Conway says

Ohh and I think one of my fav. classroom resources using technonlgy is Youtube. I love the Asian man who teaches math.

Alicia Conway says

Also, with young kids I think it is great to have little chalk boards.

Tara dills says

I would love to be able to win this. I have been using other tips you have shared. Such anthe white board schedule with post it notes, also the binder with info for the high schoolers.

As for a favorite home school resource as my favorite, I have many.

Is vegsource as a place to purchase used curriculum.

melissa Nimmo says

I guess I have some mixed feelings about the use of calculators for elementary and middle school mathematics. On one hand I think that even when using calculators for geometry, you still have to be able to know which application/formula to use, so the calculator saves time but might not be simply dumbing it down. However, I hope that my kids won’t be accustomed to using calculators until they are well into advanced mathematics. I think that we are requiring less and less of our children and lowering our expectations. Introducing calculators too early could very well have a crippling effect on children. I like the chart as a resource for future reference.

As for homeschooling resources that I turn to time and again, I absolutely LOVE http://www.superteacherworksheets.com I find myself there at least twice a week, a great resource for many subjects. I also find myself at Quick Start Homeschool and have recommended it to several friends that are just starting to homeschool. I always feel encouraged and supported when I read the articles you post! Thanks 🙂

Mandie says

My favorite resource is the computer. We can look up anything on a whim. The other day my six year old spent a hour looking up everything she could about Seminole Indians because she was playing dress up and I told her she looked like an Indian (Hindu) that morphed into a discussion about Native Americans that led her to the computer doing her own research.