Which Talking Calculator Is Best For Your Student With A Visual Impairment?

Many thanks to Susan Osterhaus and Janet Bean for their words of wisdom on this topic.
Choosing the best calculator for a student in a science or math class can be complicated.  Most teachers of the visually impaired are not from a science or math background and may feel unprepared to make this important decision.  This blog is designed to provide clear guidelines and ordering information for the talking calculators available on the market.
As the TVI decides on an appropriate calculator for a student with a visual impairment, he/she should consider numerous factors.  These include:
  • Which calculator the math class is using?  Choose this calculator if it is available.
  • If not, try to choose a calculator that the teacher is familiar with.

For Students with Low Vision 

Factors to consider:

  • Age and Math level
  • Developmental level
  • Fine motor skills - Some students with fine motor skill deficits will need to use a simple talking calculator.
  • Graphing needs - If a talking graphing calculator is needed, please see Graphing Calculators for Students with Low Vision with recommendations and thoughts from Susan Osterhaus.
  • Expense - What can your district afford to pay? Many of the scientific talking calculators are available on Quota funds.  To learn more, please see also Using Federal Quota Funds for Science Materials.

Elementary School

Students in elementary school and those with significant cognitive and/or motor impairments will likely be best served by utilizing a simple four-function calculator.  The Talking Calculator from APH is available for only $21.00. It provides necessary features for students studying math at the lower elementary level.  Unfortunately it is not available on Quota Funds.  Students who are at high school level, but are modified students and don't have need of other functionality, will find the four-function calculator more usable as it does not have extra keys that will not be used by the student. 

Middle School

Students in middle school will be best served by a simple talking scientific calculator such as the Orion TI- 36X or the Orions TI-30-X.

This informative tutorial with Susan Osterhaus on the Orion TI- 36X provides thoughts on why you should you choose this calculator.

The Orion TI-30XS provides all necessary features and is available on Quota funds, while the Orion TI-36X is not available through Quota.

A Note on Notetakers:

Notetakers such as the PACMate, BrailleNote Apex, or Braille Sense U or QWERTY have built-in scientific calculators.  However, using only the scientific calculator on a notetaker is not an ideal solution for several reasons.  The calculators on notetakers do not have the full capability of stand-alone scientific calculators.  Also, as the science and math teachers are not familiar with the notetakers, they will not be able to assist the student.  It is therefore essential for the student to have a stand-alone calculator, which is as closely aligned as possible to the calculator used in class. 

Upper Middle School and High School

Students in upper middle school and high school who are studying at grade level should ideally use a Scientific Talking Graphing Calculator.  The Orion TI- 84+ is a new product which is available on Quota Funds and has very good reviews. Again, the first question to ask is,  which calculator the class is using.  Susan Osterhaus offers more information on graphing calculators available

The following excellent tutorial with Susan Osterhaus provides instruction on the use of the Orion TI-84+ with a student.



There are also numerous other talking graphing options available, including several apps.  


Collage of choosing talking calculator

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