What Is a Scientific Calculator?

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught math at a public charter high school.

Did you know that a scientific calculator can calculate trigonometry problems for you? And did you know that you can enter a whole string of operations and it will calculate the whole thing for? Learn this and more in this lesson.

A Scientific Calculator

By definition, a scientific calculator is a calculator designed to help you calculate science, engineering, and mathematics problems. It has way more buttons than your standard calculator that just lets you do your four basic arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Here is your standard calculator.

scientific calculator

Now, look at how different a scientific calculator is.

scientific calculator

Do you see all the extra buttons this calculator has?


All of these extra buttons allow you to work with various kinds of numbers and problems such as these:

  • Trigonometry problems
  • Scientific numbers that have a multiplication by 10 to certain power.
  • Pi problems
  • Logarithm problems with base 10 and the natural base
  • Probability problems that use the factorial function

You can now use your calculator to help you solve trigonometry problems involving sine, cosine, tangent, their inverses, and their hyperbolic functions. When working with trigonometric values, you can change the calculations between degrees, radians, and grads. Also, you now have access to a button for pi and Euler's constant, e. There are also buttons that allow you to easily calculate exponents to the second, third, or any other power.

When working with scientific numbers, there is an Exp button that lets you easily and quickly input scientific numbers.

Engineering problems make use of exponents, logs, and scientific numbers.

Also, all of these types of problems are usually longer expressions that involve several steps to solve by hand. But with the use of a scientific calculator, you can now input the whole expression, push the equals button, and the calculator will perform all the calculations you need in the right order. Yes, the scientific calculator computes your problems following the order of operations.

Special Buttons

To help you write your equations, your scientific calculator has some special buttons.

You have the parentheses buttons that tell the calculator in what order you want your problem to be solved.

scientific calculator

For scientific numbers, you have a special button that automatically adds the multiplication by 10 to a certain exponent. This button is the Exp button. You input your scientific number, then push the button, and then input your exponent value.

scientific calculator

Also, for working with engineering problems, you can calculate a number to any exponent and you can take a number and find the square root, the third root, and any other root by using these buttons.

scientific calculator

And of course, you have your trigonometric buttons.

scientific calculator

To use the inverse of these trigonometric buttons, you push the inverse button first.

scientific calculator


Now, let's try using the scientific calculator to evaluate an expression.

scientific calculator

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account