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5 Tips to Cure Your Calculator Blues

Online Math Tutor, Calculator help, Tips, Tricks

Your math teacher tells you the first day of class that you need a graphing calculator, so you go and buy a brand new one. It’s a month later and your teacher still hasn’t shown you how to use it. It’s just sitting at the bottom of your backpack, maybe still in its original packaging. Not only is this a waste of money, you are losing out on an important tool to you doing better in math and understanding the concepts to a deeper level.

Here’s an insider’s tip from a 30 year math teacher. The teacher doesn’t have time to show every single student how to use the calculator. You are on your own on this, kid. Sad, but true!

Here are some tips that will make you into a know-it-all calculator geek or at least you can do the important things on your calculator that you need for the math.

confused on using calculator

Tip 1. Don’t try to figure it all out yourself. Unless you’re a calculator geek, it is going to take you too much time. You’ll get frustrated quickly and probably just give up on even touching that calculator. You will start telling yourself that you don’t really need a calculator for this class. You might even start to believe that. Then the test comes with calculator questions on it and you are out of luck!

two students working on computer

Tip 2: Sit next to someone that has the same calculator as you do. This is the QUICKEST way to learn how to use your calculator. This allows you to watch the other student work her calculator. You can ask her how she did it and if she can show you. It just takes a second and most people love being able to show off. This will speed up the entire learning process. Plus, if you mess it up, the other student can quickly correct you.

Tip 3: Ask the teacher, but not in class. The teacher knows how to use your type of calculator, but it just takes too much time to answer everyone’s questions in class. Ask if you can meet with him after school one day. Then have your math teacher show you everything you will need for the next test. It will only take about 20 minutes to show you everything. The extra benefit of this is that the teacher will probably give you some good hints on what will be on the test too. Win-Win!


Tip 4: Look at YouTube videos. There is a video for everything. But don’t just type in how to use a calculator. That won’t help you. Be specific. Type in, “How to use a _________ graphing calculator.” Fill in with the make and model of your calculator, like TI84. Videos are great for showing you step by step. You can pause the video and try it on your calculator, then start it up again. Just make sure it is the same model, or it will do you no good.

User manual humor

Tip 5: Look up your user manual on the internet. Google your make and model. You can then go to the exact thing you are trying to figure out. I would recommend you save the user’s manual to your computer for easy access. I must warn you that this method can be a little harder to figure out because of how it is written, but it is thorough.

Bonus Tip: Before you go to the quiz or test … CHANGE YOUR BATTERIES. After all my years teaching math in classroom and tutoring math online, I still have students come to a test only to find out their calculator doesn’t work. I’ve even seen grown young adults burst into tears from the stress and anxiety. Don’t let this happen to you. Always have extra batteries handy.

These tips should have you whizzing around your calculator like you built the thing yourself. It just takes a little practice. Your math will thank you for it. Your teacher will thank you for it. Your parents will thank you for it. Your country will thank you for it. Maybe I went too far. Calculate on!!

TI 84 calculator

If you found this blog helpful, please feel free to share it. My name is Terri Grigsby. I do online math tutoring and in-person tutoring in the Portland, Oregon area. I am accepting new students, check out my website at, look around, and book a tutoring session. If you have any questions, you can always contact me on my website or at

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