Calculator and Computer Policy in First-year Mathematics

Policy for lab calculus courses

No lab calculus courses at Duke use calculators in any significant way.   Some of the lab calculus courses may use spreadsheets, computer algebra systems, or online math tools for calculations in labs.

In these courses you may be encouraged or even required to bring a laptop computer to lab, or possibly to class.  Be sure to ask your instructor about possible desirable characteristics or requirements, specific to your course, of such a computer.

Banned Machines

If your course allows calculators on the final exam (most don't -- be sure to check with your instructor!), you CANNOT use machines capable of performing symbolic operations in calculus (e.g. TI-89, TI-92, and laptop computers).


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 final exams.


Some teachers may allow calculators on their individual tests. In such cases, a basic calculator that computes powers roots, logarithms, and trig functions should be sufficient, and more advanced calculators might be disallowed.  Be sure to check with your instructor before you use a calculator on any exam in Math 212.