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?

Uses

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


Example

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


scientific calculator


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