How to Use Scientific Calculator

Last updated: February 23, 2024, by Otman


Scientific calculators are powerful tools that provide advanced mathematical functions beyond what a basic calculator can offer. In this blog, we will explore the importance of understanding how to use scientific calculators effectively to harness their full potential.

Let’s dive into the world of scientific calculators and unlock their capabilities.


Ⅰ Basic scientific calculators

1. What is a scientific calculator

Scientific calculators are essential tools for students, engineers, and scientists alike. Unlike regular calculators, scientific calculators have additional keys and functions that make solving advanced equations easier.

They are designed to handle complex mathematical calculations, including trigonometry, logarithms, and statistical functions.

Whether you are a student struggling with algebra or a professional calculating complex formulas, a scientific calculator can be a valuable asset in your toolkit.


2. The price of a scientific calculator

When it comes to purchasing a scientific calculator, the price can vary widely depending on the brand, features, and quality. Scientific calculators can range anywhere from $10 to over $100.

It is important to consider your budget and how you plan to use the calculator when deciding on a price point. Keep in mind that a higher price does not always equate to better quality, so be sure to do your research and read reviews before making a purchase.

Image from Amazon

Additionally, some calculators may come with extra features you may not need, so be sure to consider whether these additional features are worth the price.

Ⅱ  Key Components of a Scientific Calculator

1. Display

The display screen of a scientific calculator is where you can see the numbers and calculations you input. It typically shows symbols, numbers, and other characters needed for various mathematical functions.


2. Number Pad

The number pad on a scientific calculator is where you input the numbers and operations you want to perform. It usually includes the numbers 0-9, decimal points, and operation symbols such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

3. Function keys

Function keys on a scientific calculator are used to perform specific mathematical functions such as square root, logarithms, trigonometric functions, and more. These keys allow you to easily perform complex calculations without the need for manual calculations.

4. Memory functions

Memory functions on a scientific calculator allow you to store and recall numbers, results, and calculations for later use. This feature is particularly useful when performing multi-step calculations or when you need to reference a previous result.



Basic Operations

When using a scientific calculator, it is important to familiarize yourself with the basic operations it can perform. Here are some key functions to know:

1. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division:

These fundamental arithmetic operations can be done easily on a scientific calculator. Simply input the numbers you want to operate on and press the corresponding symbol (+ for addition, – for subtraction, * for multiplication, / division).

2. Exponents and square roots:

Scientific calculators make it easy to calculate exponents and square roots. To raise a number to a certain power, use the ^ key (e.g. 2^3 for 2 raised to the power of 3). To find the square root of a number, use the √ key.

3. Parentheses and order of operations:

Just like in standard math, parentheses can be used to group numbers and operations on a scientific calculator. Make sure to use parentheses to indicate which operations should be performed first. Also, remember to follow the correct order of operations (PEMDAS) when working with multiple operations in one expression.


Advanced Functions

1. Trigonometric functions:

To calculate sine, cosine, and tangent values, locate the corresponding buttons on the calculator and input the angle in degrees or radians.

2. Logarithmic functions:

Use the log button for base 10 logarithms and the ln button for natural logarithms.

3. Statistical functions:

Access statistical functions such as mean, standard deviation, and correlation coefficients to analyze data sets.

4. Complex numbers:

Input complex numbers using the [a] + [bi] format and use buttons like “Re” and “Im” to find the real and imaginary components of the result.


Ⅴ Mode Settings

When using a scientific calculator, it is important to understand how it handles degrees, radians, and gradients for trigonometric functions.

Make sure to switch to the appropriate mode based on your calculations. Additionally, pay attention to the number of decimal places and significant figures displayed to ensure accurate results.

Image from OSALO manual

Lastly, familiarize yourself with how the calculator displays fractions and decimals to avoid confusion during calculations.


Ⅴ Mode Settings

Scientific calculators come equipped with memory functions that make it easier to store and recall numbers during calculations.

You can easily store numbers using the M+ key and recall them using the MR key. This feature is particularly helpful when dealing with long calculations or when you need to reference a number multiple times.


Image from OSALO manual

Ⅶ Solving Equations

1. Linear equations:

To solve linear equations on a scientific calculator, enter the equation using the appropriate mathematical operations (+, -, *, /) and then use the solve function to find the value of the variable.

2. Quadratic equations:

For solving quadratic equations, input the coefficients of the equation into the calculator and use the quadratic formula or factoring method to find the solutions.

3. Systems of equations:

When dealing with systems of equations, input each equation separately and use the appropriate functions on the calculator to solve for the variables in the system.

This may involve using matrix operations or solving one equation and substituting the result for the other equations.


Ⅷ Tips and Tricks for Efficient Calculation

Using scientific calculators efficiently can save you time and frustration when tackling complex calculations. Here are some key tips and tricks to help streamline your calculations:

1. Shortcut keys:

Familiarize yourself with the shortcut keys on your calculator to quickly access commonly used functions such as square root, logarithms, and trigonometric functions.

2. Using parentheses effectively:

Properly utilizing parentheses can help clarify the order of operations and prevent calculation errors. Make sure to close parentheses correctly to ensure accurate results.

3. Utilizing memory functions:

Take advantage of the memory functions on your calculator to store intermediate results or constants for use in later calculations. This can help speed up your calculations and reduce the risk of errors.

Ⅸ Common Mistakes to Avoid

One of the most common mistakes when using a scientific calculator is misinterpreting symbols. It is important to carefully read and understand what each symbol represents to ensure accurate calculations. Another common mistake is forgetting to change mode settings, which can lead to incorrect results.

Finally, not using parentheses correctly can also be a big problem when working with complex equations. Be sure to use parentheses to indicate the order of operations in your calculations.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can make the most out of your scientific calculator.

Image from OSALO manual


In conclusion, utilizing a scientific calculator effectively can greatly enhance your mathematical problem-solving abilities.

Remember to practice regularly and explore the additional features of your scientific calculator to further improve your proficiency in using this essential tool.

With dedication and familiarity with your device, you will become a more efficient and confident calculator user. Happy calculating!