The first reaction of many students upon hearing that they are headed to the Colorado School of Mines for a high-quality engineering education is that they are going to require a much more powerful calculator. Wait just one second, though: before you go out and spend three hundred dollars on a brand new TI or Casio, you should be warned that you will have few chances to use it.
Professors at Mines are onto the tactic of programming equations and information into the calculator to bypass the need to memorize material that the professor deems necessary. Students are not allowed to use a calculator on any test for Calculus I, II and III. Also, the use of graphing calculators is prohibited on the Physics I and II exams and, historically, Chemistry I and II exams.
This may seem like a cruel and unusual punishment, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of buying the brand new, ultra-powerful calculator for hundreds of dollars only to let it languish in your dorm room or backpack for the entire year, stick with the calculator you already have.
Invest in a TI 30X IIS. This is the calculator you will be provided during all Physics I and II exams and generally Chemistry I and II exams. It can be finicky, therefore it is important to make sure you are competent in using this calculator before the day of the exam.
Most important of all, don’t panic. You can, and will, learn to derive and integrate in your head, or at least without a calculator. Teachers are not trying to make you fail their class; they are trying to teach you skills that you will need and constantly use in your tenure at Mines.
For practice, it would be beneficial to attempt at least part of your homework without the aid of a graphing calculator. This reminds you, in a low-stress situation, how to do the problem by hand, and you can practice using the scientific calculator to help you in the parts that you absolutely cannot do by memory or by hand.
Bottom line, it’s not really such a bad thing that teachers will not allow the use of high-tech graphing calculators on exams. It takes a little more concentration to complete the exams without a graphing calculator, but it’s ultimately beneficial to know that you can do calculus on your own.