Calculator Policy in First-year Mathematics

Policy for lab calculus courses

As of Fall 2017, the only lab calculus course using calculators in a significant way is Math 106L.   Math 105L, Math 111L, and Math 112L use spreadsheets for calculations in labs, and Math 122L uses the computer algebra system called Maple.  By Spring 2018, no lab calculus courses will be using calculators in a significant way.

For a lab calculus course that is using calculators, generally we recommend students use a TI-83 or TI-83+ or TI-84 calculator. The reasons for this recommendation are because:

  1. The teachers and lab instructors work with the TI-83. If at any time you need technical support, the lab assistants may not be able to assist if you are using a calculator other than those listed above.
  2. Many students who use a calculator other than those listed above have run into some difficulty when their calculator is unable to or does not have the capability to perform what is needed for the labs.
Banned Machines

For the final exam in an "L" course that is using calculators, you CANNOT use machines capable of performing symbolic operations in calculus (e.g. TI-89, TI-92, and laptop computers).

Exceptions and Other Considerations

If you want to use a different calculator, you must let your teacher or lab instructor know and you need to make sure it's not one of the calculators which are banned from major tests (see above).

If you already own another calculator which you know how to use well – that has been approved by your teacher or lab instructor and is not one of the banned machines (see above) – you can use it as long as you don't expect technical support.

Sometimes an individual teacher or lab instructor may make a change to these general policies.  Be sure to clarify with your instructor if you are not certain.  If you are not entirely clear if your instructor's policies are consistent with what will be allowed on the final exam, you should ask the course coordinator or the Supervisor of First Year Instruction.


Students are encouraged to use calculators as tools, but are warned not to develop a reliance on them.  For example:

  • You might use a calculator on a homework question with significant or unwieldy arithmetic.  However you should not use a calculator to do simple arithmetic -- such arithmetic should be expected to come up on midterm exams and the final, where calculators will likely not be allowed, and being unpracticed will reduce your capabilities in these basic skills.  (Even if calculators are allowed, being competent with basic mental/written arithmetic will save time on exams, not to mention in applications in the real world.)
  • You might use a graphing calculator (or a graphing app, computer algebra system, or website) to help you learn and understand about shapes of graphs of functions.  But be sure that you are using the calculator to learn these ideas -- and not to avoid learning them -- because these skills will be assumed on exams, where again calculators will likely not be allowed.


Policy for Math 212 Multivariable Calculus

In MATH 212 Multivariable Calculus the policy with regard to calculators may vary slightly depending on the particular faculty member teaching the course in any given semester. In most cases though, the use of either calculators or computers is NOT allowed on exams.


Some teachers may allow calculators on their individual tests. In such cases, a basic calculator that computes powers roots, logarithms, and trig functions will be sufficient