I find it odd that the iPad, clearly one of the most revolutionary computing devices in the consumer market, does not even come with a calculator. The iPhone has a simple calculator when held normally but when held in landscape position stretches to reveal more buttons and becomes a scientific calculator. So clearly Apple understands the need for a calculator. Apple also clearly wants iPads to be used in the classroom so it’s mind-boggling that they left the calculator app out.
The iPhone Calculator:
Well, for whatever the reason, there really is no sense in trying to make sense of it all and if and when they ever do make one then it will be welcomed with open arms by everyone I’m sure but until then we’ll just have to sort through the calculator apps in the App Store. So here are my findings for the best free calculator apps. I stress free because there are good free calculator apps and school budgets need not waste money purchasing calculator apps when that money can go towards other more useful educational apps. I also am quick to disregard any apps that have ads in them so even though there are other free calculator apps that are great, possibly even better, when it comes to ads they can be so distracting and something as simple as that can lose the students’ focus on the task at hand so any apps mentioned here are also ad-free =)
Depending on your subject and your grade level you may need just a simple calculator, a scientific calculator, or a graphing calculator. I’ve tested a bunch of different kinds and found the best of each in my opinion (at the time of this posting of course). So here we go again. For each of those three categories here are my findings for the best free and ad-free calculator apps…
Opérations – A great looking calculator that reflects the style of the iPhone calculator app other than the colors of the buttons. I do like the addition of the backspace button too which is not a feature of the iPhone calculator app. Another feature I like is if you turn the iPad horizontally, instead of revealing a scientific calculator, a history of all your previous calculations comes up. Students will be able to use this feature to review past calculations and thus keep their train of thought going rather than recalculating something they had just done. Not only can they review their history but they can also copy their result or the entire operation to the clipboard and paste it into any other app they are working on. This is another great feature to keep the students’ train of thought going rather than having to take the time to write their answer down on a piece of paper or even trying to memorize their answer (which could lead to errors), then switch to the app they are working on, and typing it back in. The ability to copy to the clipboard is just a smooth transition.
View or download Opérations in the App Store – Free! =)
PCalc Lite – a great scientific calculator without being overwhelming. Scientific calculators can already seem overwhelming because students (as well as most people) look at all the buttons and aren’t even sure what most of them do. They just really focus on the numbers and basic operations. Other scientific calculator apps try to be fancy and hide those “scientific” buttons in sub menus. I’m afraid that our students, however, would get distracted and start looking through all the sub menus merely just to look at them. At least with this, all the buttons are there just like a normal scientific calculator. Not to be misleading but there are three sub menus; my point is that all the scientific buttons are not hidden in the sub menus. The sub menus here though are welcomed though, specifically the conversions. Any number typed on the calculator can be converted into the common measures of length, speed, volume, and weight. The other sub menus are settings and constants which higher level math and science students will have quick access to commonly used constants such as the Golden Ratio and ‘e’ for logs.
View or download PCalc Lite in the App Store – Also free! =)
Quick Graph – a powerful yet easy to use graphing calculator. I really cannot believe this a is a free and ad-free app because it is just fully featured enough for at least up to Algebra II. I guess the one caveat is inequalities. In order to graph those you do need to upgrade the app for $1.99. There are other features you get though with the upgrade which you can see in one of the screen shots. Another thing I appreciate is the ability to color code your equations and corresponding graphs so that students can easily identify which equation goes with which line. The teacher or student can also save the graph as an image. Teachers can use these images for tests or example problems and students can use these graphs in research papers or presentation.
View or download Quick Graph in the App Store – Free (with an in-app purchase of $1.99 if you want the advanced features).
Feel free to drop a line if you have other suggestions.