high school classroom needs calculators
October 28, 2011 11:06 AM   Subscribe

What's the quickest and cheapest way for a new high school science teacher to get 40 matching scientific calculators? The school is inner-city with a high poverty rate and limited resources. Are there donation programs available for this sort of thing, or are there retailers with discount programs?

Any advice, Hive Mind? I am not asking for donations. Links to specific deals online would be helpful. Even more helpful would be general advice about how to find resources for educators. We've signed up for Donors Choose but it's kind of overwhelming.

My husband got hired to teach high school chemistry a few weeks ago. He is really excited about having landed a teaching job but is encountering some challenges related to the limited resources of the school and the students. No calculators are available from the school and it is not possible to ask students or their parents to provide them. Resources are already stretched thin. Also he's a new teacher heading into a calculation-intensive unit and there really isn't time to do much in the way of fundraising - they'll need these in the next couple weeks. Having a set of calculators available for use in the classroom would be a tremendous help. Preference would be for solar-powered so battery replacement would not be an issue. Scientific functions would a big benefit, particularly exponent and log functions. And ideally the whole set would match, so teaching the students how to use them would be simpler. I'm open to throwing a couple hundred dollars of our own money at this if need be.

Location is Minneapolis, Minnesota, if that matters.
posted by beandip to Education (15 answers total)
Something like this maybe?

TI-30X IIS 10-pack on Newegg

You might shop around for a better price though.

I'd stay away from the single-line display TI-30's. They're... weird. Double-line is great, and this is the calculator that was recommended to me by several engineering students after I dropped way too much money on a TI-84.
posted by Perthuz at 11:19 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

This answer is bound to generate some disdain, but for what it's worth:

Check the local dollar store. I bought an "Electronic Scientific Calculator" at one for $1, and it works fine. It's no TI, but for High School, it's probably adequate. Does Trig, exponents, roots, and a bunch of other functions that I don't know how to use. Get some extras, in case they aren't all up to snuff or some get lost..
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:25 AM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kirth's answer is way better. I'm pretty consistently amazed at what my wife finds at the dollar store.
posted by Perthuz at 11:29 AM on October 28, 2011

Dollar stores are a great idea; we've already bought a bunch of classroom stuff there. So far the couple we've checked have just had four-function calculators (not scientific) but I will definitely do some more scouting around this weekend.
posted by beandip at 11:32 AM on October 28, 2011

My math teacher wife once needed calculators for kids that couldn't afford them. She posted the need on Craig's list and on freecycle, I spent the next two weeks picking them up all over the county.. I think she scored about 30 or so (if I recalled, she specified whichever TI she was using in the classroom). This is, however, a county with two major universities, which probably made it easier.
posted by HuronBob at 11:54 AM on October 28, 2011

When I was at Staples the other day, I couldn't help noticing how cheap the scientific calculator were. There was a bin there that had a bunch for under $5. Sorry I don't remember the brand. Doing a quick online search brings up some scientific calculators in the $6 to $9 category.

Now I know that's more money than your husband wants to spend out of his own pocket, but at least it's a place to start looking. It's worth calling up the local Staples store, or maybe head office, and trying to cut a deal for 40. Or maybe even have 40 donated in exchange for a mention in the school's newsletter (or some other type of promotion).

Is there a local company that might be willing to donate the funds to purchase some? I know that's a lot of legwork and there's a good chance you won't find one easily or quickly, but it's something to keep in mind for next year/next semester.
posted by sardonyx at 11:56 AM on October 28, 2011

A good search:
Search on Google Shopping for: ("teacher pack" OR "teacher kit" OR lot) "scientific calculators"
Google shopping will let you filter by price, which is helpful.

Also just found 48 for $105 on Amazon
posted by beyond_pink at 12:19 PM on October 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Once you pick your cheap calculator source, you could probably also still post on Donors Choose or similar, and get donors to pay you guys back for the cost of the calculators. That way you're not so time-constrained, but you aren't stuck paying for it all out-of-pocket.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:28 PM on October 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

This falls in the "donation" category, but my sister teaches at a fancy-schmance private school and they upgrade their sets of classroom calculators every two years or something. The old ones are fine; they just upgrade when a new model comes out or when they have the money. If you can handle using an older TI version, I would call around to math departments at fancy-schmance private schools in your city and ask if you could have the old ones. You might have to call a bunch of places, but you only need one yes.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:47 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks guys! Great ideas so far. To clarify, we are totally not above asking businesses for donations. I just meant that I was not asking for donations from Mefi members in my AskMe question because that would be sketchy and weird.

The 48 pack on Amazon is an excellent price but I am concerned about the quality. The reviews I see for calculators by that manufacturer are extremely negative. I would rather spend twice as much for something that will last a few years than get a set that breaks right away. Maybe I will order one and evaluate first, if something better doesn't come up.
posted by beandip at 1:06 PM on October 28, 2011

Just some thoughts...
- If you do find something at the Dollar Store and they don't have 40, ask them and they will contact other stores to get you what you need.
- What will your husband's policy be with these calculators? Can students take them home? What if they are lost or misplaced? This is where you have to weigh the cost vs. quality factor. (For example, I provide cheapie pencils for my students because they have a tendency to walk off with them, so, no biggie, they're cheapies. ) Maybe he could use the "cheaper" calculators if students need to bring them home, if they get lost, then it's not a huge deal.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:29 PM on October 28, 2011

Donors Choose is a good suggestion, as is the dollar store.

Other suggestions: I believe Title I technology funds (or maybe a different fund but similar idea) can be used for scientific calculator sets. Lately so much money is flowing through Title I earmarked for "technology" that it can be actively difficult to spend it all -- he may need to talk to the finance guy rather than the principal (ideally with the principal's cooperation!). That might be a next-year kind of thing, though.

If there's a company nearby with an engineering department or that employs scientists, my district's had pretty good luck getting engineers and scientists to donate classroom sets of calculators or similar things that only cost a couple hundred dollars but are necessary for STEM programs. Again the district office (or the school itself) might have those relationships, and if not, ought to be cultivating them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:09 PM on October 28, 2011

Came to suggest Donors Choose....I donate regularly and it's a great organization!
posted by Gusaroo at 6:11 PM on October 28, 2011

I'd be glad to help you buy some, it's for a good cause.

Anyway, there are lots of companies that have cheap calculators. Staples and Office Max give teachers 10% off on anything they buy there.

Try Disney. I am sure they will be glad to help you get a nice supply of calculators. Every year, they organize a company wide drive to supply school bags filled with school supplies so I think they will help.
posted by Yellow at 7:03 PM on October 28, 2011

Happy news!! Another teacher found a bunch, so they are all set. Now to figure out how to keep any from getting lost...
posted by beandip at 11:36 AM on November 2, 2011

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