GCSE calculators: options, features and benefits
GCSE maths presents a range of new challenges to students. As well as deepening their understanding of topics including algebra, probability and statistics, they need to show this comprehension in longer and more demanding exam papers.
It’s at this key stage that the applications and benefits of a powerful calculator become clearer than ever.
When they have access to the right tools and feel entirely comfortable using them, students can add an extra dimension to their learning and gain a big advantage in every GCSE exam paper they sit.
GCSE maths calculators: what options do students have?
A good scientific calculator is the minimum requirement for GCSE maths students. As they embark on more detailed examinations of the topics that comprise the mathematics syllabus at this stage, they will need access to trigonometric functions, at the very least. This is in addition to basic calculator features such as square root and cube root functions and parentheses.
The Casio fx-83GT CW and fx-85GT CW provide the basic functionality needed for GCSE maths, with key applications including:
• Menu operation
• Log, exponential, trigonometric and hyperbolic
• Equivalent ratios
• Standard deviation
Other features of these calculators include natural maths displays and solar power on the fx-85GTX.
Students sitting the higher-tier GCSE maths papers will benefit from using a more advanced scientific calculator such as the Casio fx-991CW. This is a good option for those looking to gain confidence in solving equations, offering the necessary functionality to check answers to:
• Linear equations
• Simultaneous linear equations
• Roots and vertices of quadratics
• Quadratic inequalities
For GCSE maths students that are operating at a deeper level of understanding and planning to make the step up to A-level maths, graphic calculators are an option worth considering. The visual capabilities of a graphic calculator offer valuable learning support when A-level students are exploring subject areas such as:
• Function transformations
• Coordinate geometry
• Data interpretation
Those who have already been introduced to graphing technology at GCSE will feel more comfortable with it at A-level, making the process of studying and preparing for exams less stressful.
The Casio fx-CG50 is our most advanced graphic calculator and is approved for use in GCSE and A-level examinations. Students making the transition to this model from the fx-991EX will see a number of benefits, including the opportunity to accelerate their learning and deepen their understanding through visualisation and the option to draw their own graphs.
What are the key features of a GCSE calculator?
Starting with the essentials, any scientific calculator being used for GCSE maths needs to support the fundamental calculations required to explore the key components of the syllabus. This should include, as a bare minimum, log, exponential, trigonometric and hyperbolic functions.
This is an area where the differences between calculator specifications can be particularly clear. Students who have access to more advanced scientific calculators can extend their learning by experimenting with features such as:
• Complex number calculations
• Numerical calculus
• Polynomial solutions
• Vector and matrix arithmetic
Analysis and understanding of data is an area where GCSE maths students need to display deeper comprehension at exam time. Knowing how to use a scientific calculator opens up opportunities for them to investigate topics such as standard deviation, regression and quartiles.
Those at the higher tier who are starting to venture into activities such as random sampling and presenting data in charts will find that a graphic calculator offers the broader range of functionality they need.
One of the key differences between the scientific calculators in the Casio range relates to probability distributions. The FX-991CW is the only scientific model equipped to perform calculations in this particular area, enabling students to calculate probabilities for binomial, normal and Poisson distributions.
This is an example of how using more advanced features on their calculator can introduce students to new types of mathematics and encourage them to make connections between them. Those who want to continue studying maths beyond Key Stage 4 will benefit from this way of thinking at A-level.
What is the best graphing calculator?
Graphing calculator capabilities add a new dimension to A-level maths studies by opening up new ways for students to visualise and analyse data.
The Casio fx-CG50 is our most advanced graphic calculator, and the option we recommend for students looking to deepen their understanding of key concepts as they progress beyond GCSE level.
Here are some of the main reasons why we think the fx-CG50 is the best option for A-level maths students.
How do calculators help students in GCSE exams?
Calculators can provide valuable support to students sitting GCSE mathematics exams, particularly when it comes to maximising time efficiency and providing reassurance that they’re working along the right lines.
To make the most of the tools available to them and take full advantage of the time available in their GCSE maths exam papers, students need to be sure they’re ready to use their calculator.
That means setting aside as much time as possible to familiarise themselves with their device, so common functions and processes become second nature and can be executed quickly in the exam. Practising with past papers is a good way of getting students accustomed to using their calculators to tackle exam questions.
It’s also important for candidates to check whether their calculator has an exam mode and to activate this in advance so they’re fully prepared on the day.
Working quickly and methodically
The ability to work under timed conditions is clearly a key factor in any candidate’s performance in a GCSE maths exam. It’s vital, therefore, that students can take full advantage of any tool that lets them perform complex calculations quickly and proceed through the steps required to reach the correct answer.
Being accustomed to using a GCSE calculator can also help students work systematically and test out different approaches to the problem they’re facing. This can lead to them displaying their methods and reasoning in their answers, which can be just as important as getting the right final outcome in a maths exam.
Many students will understandably be feeling the pressure in their examinations. The ability to check their answers and gain peace of mind that they’re on the right track can make a big difference to their confidence and general outlook in the exam environment.
This is one of the clearest benefits to be gained from using scientific calculators such as the Casio fx-991EX, which has the capability to check answers to linear equations, quadratics and more.
You can find out more about the differences between the models in the Casio range by doing a calculator comparison.
- Graphing technology
- Scientific calculators