It doesn’t add up: TI-84 isn’t the only option

TI's monopoly on graphing calculators makes for unnecessary challenges for students to succeed despite their access to money, but the change starts with the syllabus. 

The TI-84 Plus graphing calculator, that hundreds of advanced math courses across the country require, costs each student a lofty $139. Texas Instrument’s price on their most popular graphing calculator has hardly changed since the 2004 release. TI’s monopoly on graphing calculators makes for unnecessary challenges for students to succeed despite their access to money, but the change starts with the syllabus. 

The Casio fx-9860GII Graphing Calculator sells for $79.99, $59 less than their competitor TI.”

According to the NPD Group, 93% of 1.6 million U.S. graphing calculator sales from Jul. 2013 to Jun. 2014 was from the brand Texas Instruments. The other 7%, and TI’s only graphing calculator competitor, were Casio calculators. Despite selling 1,488,000 calculators in a year, TI declares the product in an “other” category on financial reports. In their 2019 second-quarter financial results, the “other” category’s revenue decreased by $40 million from the previous year to $344 million, yet their operating profit increased by $18 million to $133 million.

Slowly, TI’s monopoly on graphing calculators is disintegrating due to companies such as Casio that plan to compete with TI on their prices. Their TI-84 equivalent, the Casio fx-9860GII Graphing Calculator, sells for $79.99, $59 less than their competitor. Casio still turns a profit on their calculators despite their lower costs. A calculator such as the TI-84 Plus is marked to cost $20 to produce, so TI is selling each graphing calculator with around an 85% profit margin, whereas Casio’s profit margin is 10% less. 

TI was one of the first graphing calculators to exist and become accessible for students to buy, so they have become the universal class necessity.”

Even though new companies are coming to the graphing calculator scene, teachers often won’t accept a student purchasing a more cost-effective choice for their class. TI was one of the first graphing calculators to exist and become accessible for students to buy, so they have become the universal class necessity. As their price remains well over $100 for the 16th year, thousands of students around the country can’t afford higher math education purely because of the cost of a calculator. It’s time for the syllabus to change and become more inclusive of the same things from different manufacturers.