There may come a day in our lifetimes where kids hear the word “calculator” and think “what?!” With a shift in the way math is being taught, and new technology coming out all the time, the humble calculator may just get buried in a drawer and forgotten about.
And isn’t that a shame?! These helpful tools have made equations easier since the mid-1600s. Here’s an exploration of the different types of calculators you can choose from. The calculator may still have its day!
What is Another Word for Calculator?
The word “calculator” was used for the first time in the late 14th century. It comes from the Latin calculatus, which means “to reckon or compute.”
You can refer to a calculator as any of the following:
- Number cruncher
- Calculating machine
- Personal digital assistant
- Data processor
- Equation computer
- Finance tool
- Pocket accountant
- Adding gadget
While these words and phrases aren’t as commonly used, they do give you a clear indication of why we use calculators. These gadgets help us crunch numbers, estimate answers, and calculate even the most seemingly unsolvable equations!
How Many Types of Calculator Are There?
There are five main types of calculator:
Basic calculators are used by just about everyone to solve common equations, while scientific and graphing calculators are geared towards math students. Printing and financial calculators are a must for those who work with money.
What Are the Different Types of Calculators?
Every calculator can do basic arithmetic, but there are some that are more advanced than others. The different types of calculators are broken down and described below.
A basic calculator is sometimes referred to as a 4-function calculator. It’s able to do simple arithmetic, which includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Use a basic calculator at home to figure out your monthly budget, or when you’re trying to cook a new recipe.
It’s impossible to graduate middle school or high school without a scientific calculator. These calculators are often used by students taking algebra, trigonometry, or geometry. The most commonly purchased brand is Texas Instruments (TI).
Graphic calculators are a type of scientific calculator that are also used by students, namely those in college. They’re more advanced and are capable of performing many complex functions such as plotting graphs and completing logarithms.
If you want a record of your calculations, a printing calculator should be your new best friend! The numbers and figures are printed on a piece of paper that rips off at the top. This old-school calculator is great for those who work with money.
A financial calculator is, as the name suggests, geared towards calculating finances. You can use one to figure out interest rates, mortgage payments, and cash flows. They’re not as common as other types of calculators, but they’re useful for realtors, accountants, and financial advisors.
Google is capable of pretty amazing things. Simply type in an equation, and the algorithm is usually smart enough to produce an answer. Most laptops and PCs also have a calculator that you can use right on the desktop. If you need a more advanced online calculator, look into websites like Desmos and GeoGabra.
Our phones can do it all and that includes math problems! The calculator is a built-in app, like text messaging and email, that comes preprogrammed in all types of smartphones.
Can you imagine using beans or stones to do math? Well, that was the method of choice before the abacus was invented in ancient Babylonia! Today, this tool is made from bamboo and beads and is part of many elementary and primary classrooms.
Go for a vintage look by picking up a mechanical calculator, which were all the rage in the 19th century. You might look really weird busting this out to calculate the tip at a restaurant, but at least you’ll be interacting with a piece of history!
Calculators can also be broken down by how they look or how they function. This includes:
An electronic calculator is able to solve complex problems. Scientific and graphing calculators fall into this category, using circuit boards and lithium batteries in order to work.
Basic, financial, and printing calculators usually work via solar power. This helps them last for a longer period of time. If your calculator seems to be no longer working, try leaving it outside in direct sunlight!
A touchscreen calculator works the same as your smartphone. When the battery gets low, it simply needs to be recharged with a USB charger. The world seems to be embracing this type of technology, which could mean even more touchscreen calculators in the future!
Bring your calculations on the go by using a pocket or handheld calculator! The slim, compact design makes it fit with ease in your pocket or in a pencil pouch. Some even have a little latched door that hides the buttons.
Your office will look even more professional with a desktop calculator near your computer. This type of calculator lays flat and has a popped up display screen that shows your calculations. Printing and financial calculators are usually desktop models.
Show personality by using a novelty calculator! These calculators come in all kinds of unique shapes such as animals, hearts, and even video game controllers. They make excellent gifts for birthdays and holidays!
What is the Difference Between a Standard and Scientific Calculator?
While standard calculators are handheld and easy to use, they aren’t able to perform as many complex equations as scientific calculators. Standard calculators are designed for only basic arithmetic.
This infographic breaks down all the differences between scientific vs. standard calculators.
- Designed for basic arithmetic
- Contains 16 to 26 buttons
- Able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide
- Usually works via solar power
- Great for households, offices, elementary schools
- Designed for complex equations
- Contains 40 to 50+ buttons
- Able to calculate Pi, exponents, logarithms, trigonometric symbols (sin, cos, tan), and plot data
- May come with graphing feature
- Usually works via electronic circuit board & lithium battery
- Great for engineering, middle school to college math classes, science labs
What Are Popular Calculator Brands?
The most popular calculator brands can be found at retail stores like Target, Office Depot, and Walmart. Most of these brands offer a wide variety of different styles!
Shop for the most popular calculator brands:
- Texas Instruments (TI)
- Hewlett Packard (HP)
Texas Instruments (TI)
You probably used a Texas Instruments (TI) calculator in high school! This brand makes about $6.3 billion sales on scientific and graphing calculators every year and is almost always found on back-to-school supply lists.
Casio does it all – basic desktop calculators, scientific and graphing calculators, printing calculators, and even math workbooks created by and designed for teachers. The company started in Japan in 1946 and is still going strong to this day.
Fire away! You have a lot of math to work through, so be sure to churn out those problems using a Canon calculator. The brand has a variety of basic, scientific, and printing calculators, but perhaps their most notable feat is the Canon Green series, which includes eco calculators made from 100% recycled materials.
Sharp often makes the list of best calculators to use. The Japanese brand has a wide range of calculators, from scientific to financial, and is also famous for being the first to sell mechanical pencils in 1915.
Hewlett Packard (HP)
You might be familiar with HP laptops, printers, and digital cameras, but did you know they also sell calculators? HP was ranked #58 on Fortune Magazine’s 2020 list of Fortune 500 companies. They continue to pave the way forward in the world of electronics.
How is this for influential? One of Toshiba’s handheld calculators (the BC-8018) was inducted into the Smithsonian National Museum of History. You can rely on this brand for budget-friendly pocket calculators.
Is a Calculator Considered a Computer?
Many calculators work via electronic circuit boards and utilize data processing. For that reason, there are some who believe that a calculator should be considered a computer.
On the flip side of the argument, the Merriam-Webster dictionary refers to a calculator as “an electronic device” rather than a computer. Techwalla, a popular tech and gadget review site, also released an article noting that “calculators are single-purpose devices,” while computers “have vastly expanded capabilities.”
Whether you think of it as a computer or an electronic device, there’s no denying the power of a calculator! It’s a gadget that belongs in every home, school, or office.
What Words Can You Make With a Calculator?
Back when you were a silly kid, you might have typed numbers on your computer and flipped it upside down. The idea was to spell out a word on the display screen, usually something inappropriate that would elicit giggles from your classmates.
You can still have fun with your calculator! Here are 10 words that you can spell out with the numbers:
#1: 376,006 = Google
Don’t you hate when someone asks you questions they can easily find the answers to themselves? Type “376006” on a calculator to spell out “Google” and leave it on their desk. It’s a subtle reminder that everything they need to know is right at their fingertips!
#2: 3,781,637 = Legiblet
Some people have truly bad handwriting, but maybe it will be better if you remind them to be “legible” by using a calculator. This might not make a difference when your doctor writes a prescription, but it could at least make for a few laughs!
#3: 461,375 = Sleigh
Celebrate the holidays by writing the word “sleigh” on your calculator. This could be funny décor at the office if your accounting team is doing Secret Santa.
#4: 0.7734 = Hello
This one is a classic! If you type “0.7734” on a calculator, you will get the word “hello” on the display screen. If you have a sore throat, or just don’t feel like talking, this could be a good way to greet people!
#5: 5,508 = Boss
Many workplaces have gone fully remote since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, you can still make Boss’s Day special by ask your team to write “Boss” on a calculator. Everyone can then hold it up during a Zoom meeting, and share a personal reason why they think their boss is special.
#6: 500,761 = Igloos
Brr! Let everyone know that you’re feeling kind of chilly by spelling “igloos” on a calculator. Does your spouse like to sleep in a cold room at night? Leave this message on their bedside table as a joke!
#7: 37,816,173 = Eligible
Single and looking to mingle? You can use a calculator to write “eligible.” If you use dating apps, this could be a clever way to let someone know that you like math and that you’re available for a date!
#8: 376,616 = Giggle
We can all use a laugh from time to time! Send off good vibes by writing “giggle” on your calculator. Hold this message up to someone who’s having a bad day, and you may just get them to smile.
#9: 0.607 = Logo
Here’s an idea for a financial firm with a good sense of humor! A calculator with the word “logo” literally spelled out could be a hilarious actual logo for your company. It’s memorable and says a ton about who you are as a brand!
#10: 5,318,804 = Hobbies
When it’s time to start coming up with New Year’s resolutions, type the word “hobbies” on a calculator and keep it on your desk. You can use it as inspiration to try something new in the coming year!
Calculator Number to Letter Key:
- 0 = O or D
- 1 = I
- 3 = E
- 4 = H or A
- 5 = S
- 6 = G or Q
- 7 = L
- 8 = B
- 9 = G or B
Are you a teacher looking for new activities in your classroom? Hand out a worksheet with numerical answers that can be flipped to create words. The students can then use the words to write their own sentences. You’ll be combining a math and writing lesson all in one!
How Have Calculators Changed Our Lives?
The human brain is incredible, but it can only accomplish so much when it comes to estimates and numerical answers. For everything else, there’s the calculator!
Calculators have changed our lives by making math quicker and easier than ever before. We will always have the calculator to thank for advancing us forward in the fields of finance, engineering, science, art, construction, and education. Time will tell how this technology changes in the future!
The Bottom Line
You may have the internet and a cell phone that can do math for you, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about the calculator! A basic one is great to have at home, while scientific calculators can help make a teacher’s life easier. Buy the right calculator for your needs and get to problem solving!
Online Etymology Dictionary. Calculator (n.). Retrieved from,
Viral Talks. (2016, December 7). Here’s All the Different Types of Calculators That Exist. Retrieved from,
Morimoto, B. (2021, March 14). Abacus. Retrieved from,
India Study Channel. (2012, December 20). Different Types and Brands of Calculators. Retrieved from,
Schifman, J. (2015, October 27). 11 Calculators That Show How Far Computing Has Come in the Past 2,000 Years. Retrieved from,
Okoi, M. (2020, April 20). 10 Best Online Calculators for Solving Basic and Advanced Problems. Retrieved from,
Vintage Calculators Web Museum. Some Notable Calculator Companies. Retrieved from,
Encyclopedia.com. (2021, March 12). Texas Instruments Incorporated. Retrieved from,
Fortune. Fortune 500. Retrieved from,
Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Toshiba BC-8018 Handheld Electronic Calculator. Retrieved from,
Merriam-Webster. Calculator (noun). Retrieved from,
Burnside, K. The Differences Between Computers and Calculators. Retrieved from,
wikiHow. (2020, September 15). How to Write Words With a Calculator. Retrieved from,