I would like to respond to your article “New graphing calculator solutions equal more choices for schools” (October 2003). I think the article was very well written, but some of the facts are misguided. There are no more graphing calculator choices now than there were two or three years ago. In actuality, the calculator market is more polarized than ever before, with fewer options being offered to students.
Sure, both Hewlett-Packard and Casio have released new models, but they are not strongly promoted by high schools. Instead, Texas Instruments has squeezed out its competitors in the U.S. school market. TI calculators have taken up so much market share that many major retailers have stopped selling HP and Casio graphing calculators. Try finding anything other than a TI graphing calculator at your local Wal-Mart.
Because TI has done such an excellent job at marketing to schools, most math teachers require or strongly suggest a TI calculator. With such a high market share, competition is stifled. Because TI has no price pressure, it is able to charge twice as much as a competitor like Casio.
Take the TI-83, for example. The TI-83 Plus and TI-83 Plus Silver Edition are priced at $105 and $139, respectively. Now look at Casio. The closest comparison to the TI-83 is the Casio FX-9750G Plus, which retails at $50. This is less than half of what TI is charging. The Casio FX 2.0, which retails for $100, has a full CAS (computer algebra system). The FX 2.0 most closely matches the TI-89, which retails for $160, or $60 more than the equivalent Casio.
In your article, you compare the top-of-the-line Casio Classpad 300 with the TI-83 Plus for price, but this isn’t a fair comparison. The top-of-the-line TI is the Voyage 200, which retails for $200. Casio’s ClassPad can be purchased for only $150 at classpad.org. At $50 less than the Voyage, the ClassPad offers revolutionary functionality not found in any other calculator. It has pen input, a large display, natural math input, and drag-and-drop functionality.
Do teachers know about this? Do they have any idea that they can get a calculator equivalent to the TI-83 for less than half the price, or under $50? With school budgets as tight as they are, I’d like to think that educators are price-conscious.
–Brian Maguire, Saltire Software Inc.