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The 7 Best Calculators for Going Back-to-School, Acing Tests, and Doing Accounting Work

Whether you’re aiming to ace a test or prep a career-making presentation, these tools can get you there.

Whether you’re a college student enrolled in a calculus course or a professional accountant with your own firm, having a dedicated calculator is essential to your success. These purpose-built devices allow you to perform a wide range of calculations quickly—powerful models can even tackle complicated calculus equations and graph visual representations of functions.

When it comes to simple math, you can always use your smartphone, but for lots of quick work, there’s something more user-friendly about the physical buttons and single-function design of a calculator that still makes it a useful item to keep in your desk or your laptop bag.

The Best Calculators

  • Best Overall: Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Graphing Calculator
  • Best for Students: Sharp EL-W516TBSL 16-Digit Advanced Scientific Calculator
  • Best Budget Option: Canon LS-82Z Handheld Calculator
  • Best Scientific Calculator: Casio fx-115ESPLUS2 2nd Edition Advanced Scientific Calculator
  • Most User-Friendly Calculator: Casio fx-9750GII Graphing Calculator

What to Consider

Capabilities

From graphing to scientific to four-function, different types of calculators have vastly different capabilities. Be sure to choose one that will serve your particular needs. Additionally, if you plan to use it for college entrance exams, make sure the model you are going to purchase is approved for use during testing.

Generally speaking, elementary and middle school students are best served by scientific calculators; high school students probably need graphing calculators; and professionals who work with numbers should look for accounting calculators.

Battery Life and Power Source

Speaking of college entrance exams, nothing could be worse than your calculator running out of power before you finish your test. Calculators are battery-powered, solar-powered, or a hybrid of both—and a few higher-end models are rechargeable. We recommend battery-powered calculators for most people, though simple four-function options can last for a while on the solar panel alone.

How We Selected

We read through a wide breadth of professional reviews to find consensus on the best calculators in a number of different categories. We also kept different coursework requirements, professional duties, and price points in mind, ensuring that our selections are useful to a wide range of people. We also made sure that the models we chose were well-regarded by customers, and considered the models we have and use around the office. No matter your calculation needs, you should be able to find one that’s right for you.

Danny Perez is a Commerce Editor for Popular Mechanics with a focus on men’s style, gear, and home goods. Recently, he was coordinator of partnership content at another product journalism outlet. Prior to that, he was a buyer for an independent men’s shop in Houston, Texas, where he learned all about what makes great products great. He enjoys thrifting for 90s Broadway tees and vintage pajama sets. His spare time is occupied by watching movies and running to impress strangers on Strava.

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Headshot of Alex Rennie

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.

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