Graphing calculator prices: how TI cornered the market

You’re a student. Why are you required to buy a Texas Instruments calculator?

Why not something cheaper and better?

Usually what you’re buying is a TI-84, a 15-year-old piece of expensive technology. Zachary Crockett explains how we got into this fix. First he makes this observation:

An obsolete piece of technology has managed to maintain a stranglehold on an increasingly tech-savvy education market. But it appears that the rise of new, free-to-use technology is starting to chip away at this empire

Ah yes. Surprise, surprise — could it be politics? Surely not. But Crockett points out what happened in the first decade:

Texas Instruments paid lobbyists to hound the Department of Education every year from 2005 to 2009 — right around the time when mobile technology and apps were becoming more of a threat.

The company campaigned against devices with touchscreens, internet connection, and QWERTY keyboards. In one instance, it even lobbied the Texas legislature to make it mandatory for all students to take Algebra II — a course that often requires the use of a TI graphing calculator.

I am shocked, shocked. Politics from Texas? And why didn’t we know about this?

You may wonder why Desmos (free!) hasn’t replaced TI. Crockett discusses that in detail, so read his entire article. Desmos is clearly superior, but TI begs to differ:

Schools often have to pay for IT support and consistent, reliable broadband internet, in addition to purchasing tablets and laptops to run the apps. Using tools that require internet access is especially challenging for schools and districts in rural areas, where infrastructure is limited.

What do you think?

Categories: Math, Teaching & Learning, Technology