My TI-83 Graphing Calculator Is The Real MVP and My STEM Folks Know What I’m Talking About » VSB

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My TI-83 Graphing Calculator Is The Real MVP and My STEM Folks Know What I’m Talking About

Panama Jackson


In the summer of 1997, right after graduating from high school, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a pre-freshman summer program at Morehouse College (my eventual alma mater) directed at those of us entering the school as science, math, or engineering majors. It was called Center of Excellence in Science, Math, and Engineering (COE) and was paired with the Dansby Scholars program, geared towards students intending to major in physics. Some of the program was funded by NASA if memory serves correct.

All of us took a Mechanics (Physics) and a Calculus class. For those of us intending to be engineering majors, there was an Intro to Engineering class that included a lab (I believe) and alternately some other class for those going into, I don’t know, biology or something. I honestly can’t remember. In any of the classes, if we received a B or better, we’d receive college credit.

What I remember most from this program are the mandatory study halls, sneaking to Spelman College for lunch (and the debates about where risking our stipend was worth it), Professor Oyedeji giving somebody an actual “zero”on an assignment and ranting to us “FOR THE FIRST TIME, I GIVE ZERO” a statement that would find its way into one of the many freestyle sessions during the mandatory study halls, taking my Mechanics final – a multiple choice test – by flipping a coin and upon dropping my quarter turning in my exam sheet that I’d clearly failed, my boy Calvin (one of the two people I give credit for my ever blogging, with the other being Liz) chasing some kid around campus with a belt, and the 14-hour spades bender I went on with a dude nicknamed Nacho and a cat named Brandon who looked like Prince (I can’t remember who the fourth party was) because the fucking game just would not end.

Real spit, one my boys went to sleep, and when he came back down saw the four of us still playing this game and incredulously asked, “y’all niggas are STILL going at it??”

It was a great summer.

We stayed in the then upper class dorm, Fair Street (now Perdue Hall), made great friendships (several of which I maintain to this day as my closest friends on this here planet Earth), we got a $1,000 stipend, and got to go on various excursions around Atlanta.

And at the end of the program, they gave us a Texas Instruments (TI)-83 graphing calculator. Ladies and gentlemen, I still use this calculator, as recently as today.

All of us in this program were intended math or science majors, which means most of us took some AP Calculus, Physics, Chem, Bio, etc classes in high school. For the AP Calculus class, a graphing calculator was required, so my parents sprung the (I believe) $89.99 for a TI-82 in 1996 (it is amazingly $116 on Amazon right now). I passed my AP exam by taking the derivative of everything and hoping for the best because I definitely checked out in that class. I got a 3 on my exam and earned some college credit. I also remember being finished with that test WAAAAAAAY before everybody else and firing up Tetris on my trusty 82. Some of you know what I’m talking about.

By the end of the COE summer, we were given the TI-83 (still $90 on Amazon) and because my 82 was trucking along fine, I just packed it away until necessary. My 82 carried me safely through my entire undergrad career and all of my Calculus, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, etc classes, but it eventually gave out and I had my awesome as fuck TI-83 to fall back on.

Let me tell you. The 82 was bad ass to me. If you’ve never used a graphing calculator, you’re missing out. But the TI-83 was like stepping up into a Cadillac Escalade from a Chevy Trailblazer. It was an upgrade of upgradious proportions. It felt better. It looked better with the multi-colored buttons and better screen resolution. I carried that joker with me everywhere academics were happening. In grad school, in my statistics classes, it was my TI-83 that did the dirty work. I’d program equations and sequences, getting my basic coding on, just to one up my classmates in my Master’s program (which was clearly not a math program – nobody else was rocking a graphic calculator in the public policy stats class).

After receiving my Master’s degree and getting a job that required a significant comfort of mathematics and computational analysis, it was my TI-83 that joined me in my office. Nearly 20 years after receiving my TI-83 in July of the year of our lord nineteen hundred and ninety seven, I’m still using the same calculator that an entirely different version of myself was gifted for dreaming about becoming an engineer. I did not become an engineer. And yet, I’m still using my 83.

Sometimes when I get bored, I create a graph or 100 on my calculator, while hitting that Cosine on that beat, Tangent on that beat, Si-Sine on that beat. I feel like if I don’t use my graphing calculator to do more than simple mathematics, it will feel unloved and lose its purpose. And a calculator without a purpose isn’t a calculator at all. It’s just a trinket you buy on a boardwalk on a beach. Life is beach chair.

While I’m not in the engineering arts any longer, and I don’t have a use for 99 percent of the functions of this calculator, I’m glad I still have this relic from my past that’s seen me through good times and bad. My TI-83 has been a companion. It’s only needed a battery change and then it keeps on ticking, following me decade after decade, hopefully continuing for several more until it decides to take that final technical nap.

Window. Zoom. Trace. Graph.


Because You+Me = Us.

To the trusty, durable, and dependable TI-83 that’s been my best friend in times of mathematical need: You are appreciated.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • Junegirl627

    I love this post!!!!!

    I was an accounting major and I was gifted with the TI-89. That $189 bad boy was the best thing that ever happened to pre-cal, cal, and quantitative statistics me. Damn you bringing me back.

    • Other_guy13

      That calculator was a gift from the most high. I promise I would have NOT made it through pre-cal or cal without it.

  • Because You+Me = Us.

    I know my calculus!

    • panamajackson

      One of the greatest random movies of all time. RIP Q.T.

      • Lea Thrace

        Cosign. Loved the movie. Loved the show!

      • Asiyah

        That movie was a masterpiece and I’m not being sarcastic or ironic!

  • Yellow Tail

    Yay for the STEM majors! Shout out to the NSBE fam.

    I’m a little too young to have experienced the TI-82 but I got a TI-83 in high school and never looked back. It still has the stickers on the back of it that I put on it during the AP exam when I started getting bored. I also did a pre-freshman summer program at my alma mater and my TI-83 was my life saver. I still use mine to this day when I do activities with the kiddies. Great times.

    • PinkRose

      I just fussed my engineering major kid out for not attending one NSBE meeting last semester, 18 credits hours be d@*ned!

    • Glo

      Some of my favorite college memories took place at NSBE conferences.

    • CC

      Awww NSBE. Memories…

      4 solid, 4 life! lol

  • QueenRaven23

    After my first stats class at UNCC, I threw my calculator away in frustration. I know I have to get one in the near, near, near future because I can’t go through a master’s without. But I got away with a lot because of my handy dandy TI-83

  • miss t-lee

    This calculator reminds me of all the math classes I suffered and scraped my way through.

    • QueenRaven23

      Yep yep!

      • miss t-lee

        I’m triggered…lol

    • LMNOP

      I just remember staring at the clock, those math class minutes each felt like 20 minutes.

      • miss t-lee


  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    When them other folks would stunt on me with their HP 48’s, talmbout reverse polish notation. Yeah, but no.

    The good old days, where the answers to life’s problems were found by solving for X

  • DocMaldo

    Preach. #praisetechjesus. I teach at a university and I’m taking advantage of my tuition benefit (read: free degree) by completing an undergrad math program (actuarial science) and my TI-83 is my friggin svengali.

    It comforts me in my finance class when calculating TVM problems and yells at me in its best Texas drawl to get off my fat, lazy azz and push through my derivatives homework for my calc class. I’ve tried others (a cute pink and purple Casio), but the TI-83 always finds out (just like jealous girlfriends) and puts me on blast with failed quizzes and bitter revenge. Right now, we’re just booed up braving the Chicago cold….waiting for the next semester to start.

    • Blueberry01

      I heard about that actuary exam….

  • mssporadic

    “Sometimes when I get bored, I create a graph or 100 on my calculator, while hitting that Cosine on that beat, Tangent on that beat, Si-Sine on that beat.” <– So NERDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A whole post about the love of your scientific calculator warms my little nerdy heart!

  • Mr. Mooggyy

    I used mine for games! Sorry….not sorry!

    • QueenRaven23

      Yep, and I used type messages for people and everything…and hide it so the teacher wouldn’t see it

      • miss t-lee

        That’s what we did. Passed notes and such…lol

    • Asiyah

      Yes! I wasn’t one of those (never been into games) but I remember everyone playing games on them when I was in HS. Memories…

    • Kylroy

      Had a classmate program an entire primitive RPG game onto the TI-82. It was…about as good as it could be.

    • Trill Mickelson

      I had some kind of football game on mine.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    A colleague volunteers here working with the youth on Stem, which is now steam (added arts – but you don’t see them having rap or twerk competitions, I digress)

    We were coming up with ways to engage the youth on these issues. Her squad stay coming up with science project lite stuff.

    I keep trying to tell her to meet the kids where they are, but deaf ears and all that

    • Me

      No shade to arts majors/professionals, but I always cringe when I see art added to STEM. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of specifically calling out the STEM disciplines? I mean the only thing missing would be history, and you might as well just call it school. Come on! (I make special exception when the a in STEAM stands for agriculture, but thassit! Soft disciplines need to come up with their own acronym IMO.)

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        on this topic, “Don’t make me show my color” (c) old school black person

      • brothaskeeper

        At least they didn’t try to stick language arts in the acronym. STELAM doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

        • Me

          Ugh. That’s that #allsubjectsmatter mess. I wouldn’t be able to deal with that.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          *punches air*

        • TheFiresBurning

          They rearrange and get metals

      • Cheech

        As a liberal arts major, I co-sign this. As an undergrad, it was the college of arts and sciences. STEM is sciences. If you add back the arts it’s just school.

      • Tasha Lawrence?


      • Epsilonicus

        There is a lot of geometry used in art though.

      • Blueberry01


        Next, it’s going to be called ALL.

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