Calculator Information for Math 131
Fall 2016

A calculator is a useful tool to save time and check arithmetic. It can certainly also be helpful with more complicated calculations, with graphing and (in the case of some fancier calculators) with complicated symbolic manipulations.  A computer program like Mathematica, Maple or Matlab is even more useful for serious applications. 

For a beginning course like Math 131, it's important to understand what's actually happening with certain calculus computations and to learn what insight these results give about the behavior of functions and their graphs.  So it's important to learn to do some of these computations "by hand" in relatively simple situations. Some of these calcultations may not seem "simple" as you're learning them, but -- trust me -- they really are simple compared to some of the messy things that come up when calculus is being seriously used in the real world.  They do get easier with practice, just as elementary arithmetic and algebra became easier as you worked with them more and more, and in more complicated applications, scientists and engineers feel free to bring in the full power of computing technology.

No calculators of any kind will be allowed during exams and quizzes in Math 131.
The use of any calculator or electronic device during exams or quizzes is an academic integrity violation.

The problem with allowing even simple calculators is that there are
there are many, many brands and models, most with slightly different features. It's very time-consuming to determine all the features available on each and every one of them.  Some calculators, even though quite "cheap," have much more power than you'd expect and would confer an unfair advantage to a student who happens to have one of them. Also, it would be very disruptive to students taking an exam in a large room for the proctors to check whether each student's calculator is ok or not.

Of course you might want to use a calculator, even a fancy one, when you're doing homework, and that's entirely up to you. You can also make use of some free tools online -- or example, Wolfram Alpha.  But if you do, then be careful not to overuse technology. On exams and quizzes, you'll need to be able to handle standard basic problems, similar to homework, without the fancy machinery.  

You are probably overdependent on your calculator if
  • You use a calculator when you need to know sin (pi/6) or tan(pi/3) or ln ( e ^ ( -3.9)  ).
  • You consistently use a calculator to get answers in calculations such as 4/7 + 3/8, which can be easily done by hand.  Finding (approximate) decimal answers instead of exact fractions in relatively simple problems generally means you're using the calculator too much.
  • You don't know the general features and "shape" of simple graphs like y = (x-1)^2, y = cos(2x) + 1,  y = 2^(-x), etc. without having your calculator graph them.
  • You find yourself immediately punching buttons on the calculator as soon as you get started on a test. No problems on exams or quizzes should require a calculator. 
Nearly all homework should be doable with using a calculator at all, and test/quiz questions will be designed to avoid a great deal of arithmetic.

here are some examples n the text that show you how a calculator could be used. Don't worry if you don't have a calculator to do these things, but do read over the examples to see what they reveal.

For future information.  You probably won't need a calculator--cetainly not a fancy one--for your introductory math classes. However, our introductory statistics courses Math 2200 and 3200 require a calculator
(not terribly expensive) that has certain built-in statistical functions. Most of the more advanced courses in statistics and numerical methods make use of some kind of computer software (SAS, R, Matlab,...) rather than hand-held calculators.