How to use your TI-84 Plus

New school year, new calculator


Daisy Calderon/Talon

Shoshana Medved, Ombudsman

In COVID times, there’s only one thing I’m certain of: I will never truly understand my TI-84*. Sure, Generation Z may be gurus at technology, but when it comes to calculators, there’s a lot of things that still need explaining. While I don’t know every trick in the book, below we will learn some important functions you should know to help you ace your math class (or at least work your calculator).  


How to work the basics (for calculator newbies) 

We’ll start at the very beginning. 

To turn your calculator on, locate the ON button at the bottom left of the calculator. Numbers 0-9, decimals and negative signs are highlighted in white in the bottom middle of the calculator, with mathematical functions like division, subtraction and enter in gray on the right-hand side. To erase a problem, click CLEAR, which is located right beneath the gray arrows. To delete just one symbol, look to the left of the west-facing gray arrow for the DEL sign. 

To turn your calculator off, click 2ND and OFF, which is written across the top of the ON button. This button allows you to turn off your calculator and save battery in the process. 

By using these buttons, you will be able to complete many simple calculations. Yet often homework requires a bit more than addition. Read on to get a deeper understanding of your little machine.   


How to use the 2ND function

There’s a reason why it’s the only blue button: the 2ND button was born to stand out. Printed across the top of each button on the dashboard are words in a similar blue color, each with their own important message. 

As mentioned before, the most basic 2nd function is OFF, but other common ones include the square root sign (found above the x² button) and pi (above the ^). 

In order to use this function, press 2ND and then whichever function you want to choose — such as 2ND, OFF.  You’ll know that you clicked the 2ND button if your blinking cursor turns from solid black to one with an upwards arrow. To turn the arrow off, press 2ND once more and wait for it to return to its solid state. 


How to use the ALPHA function

Once you know how to use 2ND, the ALPHA button should be no problem. It’s the bright green button directly below the 2ND button and the two operate almost exactly the same. ALPHA gives the entire alphabet in capital numbers so users can write out words, plus many other useful functions. Simply click ALPHA then whatever button you need to input your letters. 

How to graph a line

Right below the calculator screen are five gray buttons that will make you a line-master. Let’s start with the Y= button, which graphs all lines that can be set equal to Y. For example, if you want to see what Y=4x+2 looks like, you can put in the values and then click GRAPH on the far right to view it in action. To get a closer look, you can use the WINDOW and ZOOM button for specific values. My favorite is ZStandard (6) on the ZOOM menu, which lets you better examine the points on your line. 

TRACE allows you to figure out specific graph coordinates. For a detailed breakdown on this function, click here.

Just for fun

There are plenty of ways to unwind with your calculator too! Draw a heart or maybe even Mario with these tutorials or write down your favorite song lyrics using the A-LOCK function above the ALPHA button. There’s even a method to download video games like Tetris on your calculator through TI Wizard — just don’t play them in the middle of class!


*I own a basic TI-84 Plus, not a CE, so some steps may differ slightly. Check out this site for CE-specific information.