A scientific calculator is a calculator especially designed to deal with scientific problems. These calculators can range from a few U.S. Dollars to several hundred, depending on the quality and features the model has to offer. They are also very useful for advanced mathematics, in addition to scientific features.
One of the hallmarks of modern scientific calculators is their ability to be programmed with formulas and functions that may be needed for certain classes. These functions are often capable of handling very complex scientific formulas, such as those found in physics or chemistry, and those in advanced mathematics, such as trigonometry. This is a feature that is available on most advanced calculators, whether they are graphing, statistics or scientific. Most companies offer a way to connect the calculator to a computer for uploading these important functions.
There are entire Web sites devoted to programming calculators with different functions. In many cases, those using a scientific calculator may be able to upload formulas to a Web site so that others can share it. Some calculators have the ability to transfer data from directly from one calculator to another, either through a wired connection or wireless connection. These features depend on the calculator model, with the costlier models having the most desirable features.
Some educators feel the features available on any calculator can actually be confusing in and of themselves. In fact, many educators feel students should have a scientific calculator that does the functions needed, but not so many that it becomes a distraction. In many cases, a teacher will recommend a certain calculator for students. It is in the student's best interest to purchase the model recommended, as often the teacher will demonstrate its use in class. Other models may work slightly differently, putting the student at somewhat of a disadvantage.
In some ways, a scientific calculator has the ability to act as a financial calculator. It may be able to amortize a loan or even calculate the value of certain investments. These features may be factory installed or available as add-ons. However, this is not the main function of scientific calculator.