Gifts for the Calculating Grad
May 8, 2024 11:00 AM   Subscribe

My kid is graduating at the end of the month, and will be studying statistics at university. It has been suggested to me that a really high end calculator would be a good graduation gift and useful in their secondary education. 1) is this true? (they did not need one in HS) 2) If so, what would be the Cadillac of handheld calculators for a stats kid?
posted by anastasiav to Shopping (18 answers total)
It's been an age since I took university stats, but iirc there was very little calculator use generally, and mostly using specialized software on the computer.
posted by eekernohan at 11:06 AM on May 8 [8 favorites]

Give them $150 cash in a cute card that looks like a calculator with a note saying it’s for a “calculator, software or whatever else you may need in college.” They probably won’t know what they need exactly until fall
posted by raccoon409 at 11:22 AM on May 8 [15 favorites]

I question whether anyone uses something like a fancy calculator for serious work. Most likely, SPSS or something similar will be required for coursework in the statistics field.
posted by SPrintF at 11:25 AM on May 8 [5 favorites]

Maybe a book on using R or Python?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:31 AM on May 8 [2 favorites]

If it were me I'd give the kid a gift card or cash in an envelope tied around a stag stuffed toy and then in the card be like "it's the weirdest thing I guess I must have made a typo while ordering..."
posted by phunniemee at 11:34 AM on May 8 [1 favorite]

I'm an engineering student, so maybe I'm speaking out of turn, but in my program we're not allowed to use fancy calculators on exams. Instead, we must use calculators that are expensive but low-end in terms of features. Since my tests require this type of calculator, I do my homework with the same one, to avoid confusion during exams.

In other words, it's possible that a really nice calculator would not be permitted in exams for a stats program, which might significantly reduce its practical value.

On the other hand, it would have been nice to have received from someone else one of the junky calculators we're required to use for exams, because they palpably fall far short of their cost, which for me made it particularly irksome to spend my own money on.

The university in question should have listed somewhere on the stats program's web pages which calculators are acceptable on exams.
posted by cthlsgnd at 11:43 AM on May 8 [11 favorites]

Honestly, of the TI graphing calculators, the 83 was held to have more ergonomic stats functionality than the fancier 92 (which has a computer algebra system and can integrate).

As a math major (at a university where being a (pure) math major was a substantially different experience to being a stats major, both in terms of courses and career path), my calculators saw use not by me but my the chemical engineering students next door.
posted by hoyland at 12:09 PM on May 8

I would be SO tempted to get my kid one of those lame calculators with giant jewels for buttons and then a pile of cash.

Alternatively: through engineering school I loved me my little $20 Casio sv-Pam (looks like FX991 or FX300 these days) and still use it at work 20 cough years later.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:24 PM on May 8 [3 favorites]

(As a person whose job is now almost completely stats and analysis based - I use computer software for almost all my stuff)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:27 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah that's not great advice. Through math undergrad and grad school, my calculator usage maxed out when I was grading student quizzes, for tallying scores and such. and I still use that TI-30xa Solar bc it never runs out of batteries.

One of those and a copy of How to lie with statistics will set you back about $30 total, and gives you the theme. Spend the rest on a gift card or a nice watch or something.
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:53 PM on May 8 [5 favorites]

I'm not a statistician but teach undergraduate stats-for-social-science and the only thing students would need a calculator for is arithmetic on exams. I actually *forbid* that kind of big, fancy calculator because it can do too much.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:59 PM on May 8

It's possible, but unlikely. I wouldn't buy them a calculator, software, or books. The university will tell them what software and books they'll need. If you want to buy them something statistics-themed, I'd get something fun like a mug, shirt, or poster.
posted by grouse at 1:06 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stats professor here. For exams in my intro courses, I ask my students to have a calculator that can take a square root. Some students in those courses prefer using a calculator to using the paper tables for looking up p-values and things, but I ask them to know how to use the paper table anyways.

Most of the work students are doing is either paper and pencil algebra, or on computers in R or Python.

(Now an iPad, if your student doesn't have one already, is super useful for taking notes in math and stats classes!)
posted by wyzewoman at 1:26 PM on May 8 [6 favorites]

Maybe get them a Galton board/box?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 1:31 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the great replies. We're already getting the Graduate a pile of cash and a new laptop (and also paying their tuition), but we have some relatives who keep saying "what about this calculator" when I keep saying "give them cash.

Thank you for the data to back up the "Give them cash" request

(I am, however, buying a copy of How To Lie With Statistics, that will be a big hit)
posted by anastasiav at 1:31 PM on May 8 [3 favorites]

SaltySalticid may be NOT How To Lie With Statistics? Tim Harford gives some side-eye to the author flushing stats down the toilet with his clever book. Not all stats are lies, and it is invidious to debase the currency so effectively since 1954. 9 min exec summary on How to Truth with Stats.
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:43 PM on May 8 [1 favorite]

Find out the course's recommended book of stats tables, buy them one, and make the joke that they have to learn to recite it by heart (especially the CDF of the Normal distribution).
posted by k3ninho at 10:42 PM on May 8

Yeah, what is allowed and useful to a college student can vary wildly depending on the specific program, and even class or instructor. It's best to leave the equipment purchase up to the student and give cash IMHO.
posted by Aleyn at 4:16 PM on May 9

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