5 Calculator Hacks You Will Actually Want To Use

By Gabe Nelson
calculator 1There are many reasons for someone to need to learn how to use a calculator. One of the main reasons to learn how to use a calculator better is testing, especially the SAT.

Many people just use the calculator they have built into their phones, but there are some tests that require a specific type of calculator. Experienced math geeks, teachers, and home tutors all know how important it is to know what type of calculator you are allowed to have before you go into a test.

Knowing these tips and tricks will help you in a test, and it’s important to know how to get around your calculator efficiently. All of these tips are things you will use and will help you get correct answers faster.

1. Double-Check

This might seem obvious, but it is an easy one to forget when you are focused on a test. There should be an entry line on your calculator where what you just typed appears. If there isn’t one, then get a different calculator.

Look at that line before you finish the equation. It is a very simple tip that can keep you from making unnecessary mistakes. It’s so easy to type numbers in the wring order by accident or hit the wrong key while you are moving quickly.

Double checking that all of your decimal points are in the right place can be the difference between a right answer and a wrong one. Getting a single thing wrong when you are typing in your equation could end in a wrong answer. Double-check before you finish and you should be fine.

2. Know Your Calculator

You know how sometimes you go to do something a little unprepared, but it’s okay because you can figure it out as you go? Calculators are not like that. If you go into a test without knowing what all the buttons on your calculator do, you are going to spend a lot of time wishing you had practiced.

Sometimes there is a specific button you have to push to make another button work the way you want it to. Maybe the sine button is in a whole different place than you have ever seen and it takes you precious moments to find.

Making sure you know how to use your calculator might be the most important tip on calculators there is. The calculators that are used during serious tests are so different than the ones on your phone or that you might have used before. Make sure you know how to use your testing calculator before you take it to a test.

3. Don’t Overdo It

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You may have heard that there is a hack to solve every single math problem you will ever come across, and all you need is a powerful enough calculator. That might even be true. The problem would be the absurd amount of time it would take to type it out.

Because there are so many buttons and options and menu items on the more high tech calculators, it takes a lot of time to use them. Figuring out how to do a really complicated equation on your calculator could involve going between menus and pressing an absurd amount of buttons.

Sometimes it is better to put the calculator down and do it by hand. It is usually faster too if you are working on a big problem. Use your calculator for more simple problems you want to get through quickly.

Doing multiplication and division on your calculator makes sense. It helps you get the right answer immediately. Doing a whole equation with lots of parts is just a waste of time. Use your calculator for the problems it can solve faster than you, not just for every problem.

4. Program

One of the most important programs you need to make sure your calculator has is the system of linear equations program. It is going to make putting in a linear equation so much quicker and more simple, and is an invaluable system for students.

The system lets you type in linear equations, which are a key part of high school and college math. Knowing how to order the numbers and where to start is basically all Algebra I is. This calculator function lets you type in your equation as is and then it solves it.

It is not foolproof. You should make sure the answer makes sense when the calculator is done. You might even have to do some quick math to reorder the equation enough for the calculator to understand what you want. All of that is worth it to never have to go through a whole quadratic equation again.

5. Math Button

There should be a MATH button on your calculator, and it’s about to become your favorite button. The MATH button converts your decimals into fractions.

It can also convert fractions to decimals if your equation decides to do things that way. It can also cube for you. It can cube a basic number, it can cube a root, it can cube whatever you feel like cubing.

When you click the math button you are going to get the options FRAC and DEC so you can convert into fractions or decimals. You will never have to do that on paper again. Type in your numbers, press the best button on your calculator, and never have to do a conversion that annoying again.

Remember

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Your calculator is one of the only things you can take with you to a test. It is on your side and there to help as long as you use it correctly. There is no need to panic about doing simple equations quickly when you have a calculator to help.

Knowing exactly how to use your calculator is going to get you pretty far. Going into a test confident in your tools is going to make you a bit calmer. It is also going to save you a lot of time panicking about not knowing how to use your calculator during your test.

Make sure you have the right calculator that will make the test more simple. Double-check everything you type in to avoid stupid mistakes. Remember to only use the calculator when it can solve a problem faster than you.

SAT vs. ACT – Which One Should You Take?

Navigating the maze of requirements needed just to apply to college can be overwhelming and daunting. Between keeping your GPA up, writing the perfect college essay, acing the interview, and finding time for all your extracurricular activities, you barely have time to figure out and prepare for the standardized tests most colleges and universities require. Prospective college students are faced with two options: the ACT and the SAT. Standardized testing is painful enough once through—why take two unless it’s necessary? Especially when each test costs between $30 and $50—and most people take the test more than once. All you have to do is figure out which one is right for you.

This infographic by BenchPrep gives you a great overview of the major differences between the two standardized tests. If you’re applying to schools along the East or West coast, the SAT might be a better option. Does science comes naturally to you, but you struggle with writing under pressure? Better stick with the ACT. Regardless of which test you pick, make the most of each test by ensuring that you are mentally and physically prepared. Be sure to get plenty of rest the night before (no cramming!) and eat a protein packed breakfast to provide fuel for the marathon of a test. And relax—no matter how important the test seems, it is only one component of a complete picture that the college sees.
By Marcela De Vivo

BenchPrepSAT


No matter which test you take, The Secrets of Top Students can help you succeed in college.  Order your copy today!

How to get rid of test anxiety

Do you do great on homework and essays, but freeze up on exams?  Do you have nightmares about the SAT?  Two recent articles in The New York Times and Time magazine address this common malady, and they have some interesting advice on how to bring your nerves under control.

Thinking about test anxiety.

Thinking about test anxiety.

Advice from the Time magazine article “Relax, It’s Only A Test,” by Annie Murphy Paul (Feb. 11, 2013)

1.  Engage in “expressive writing.”  Spend ten minutes before the exam writing about your thoughts and feelings.  This helps you cast off your anxiety and focus on the task at hand.

2.  Do a “values-affirmation exercise.”  Choose something that’s important to you – for example, music, family, religion, anything – and write about why it matters to you.  Research has found that minority and female students who did this improved their test-day performance.

3.  Write down positive statements, self-affirmations or mantras and keep them in a handy place.  The article describes how girls at the Laurel School in Ohio were given “special test-day pencil[s],” which were wrapped in pieces of paper that contained encouraging (and true) statements such as, “Girls get higher grades than boys.”

4.  Make sure you’ve prepared for the test the right way!  It may not be enough to read and re-read your notes and books – you should also take practice tests, ask yourself questions about the material, and try to predict what’s going to be on the exam.

5.  Do relaxation exercises, such as yoga.  The article describes how third-graders who were taught breathing and relaxation exercises showed a significant reduction in test anxiety.

Advice from The New York Times article, “Why Can Some Kids Handle Pressure While Others Fall Apart?” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (Feb. 6, 2013)

This article’s a bit more scientific and complex.  Its basic premise is:

Understanding their propensity to become stressed and how to deal with it can help children compete. Stress turns out to be far more complicated than we’ve assumed, and far more under our control than we imagine. Unlike long-term stress, short-term stress can actually help people perform, and viewing it that way changes its effect. Even for those genetically predisposed to anxiety, the antidote isn’t necessarily less competition — it’s more competition. It just needs to be the right kind.

The article talks about the COMT gene, which has two variants: one that slowly removes dopamine from the brain, and another that clears it quickly.  People carry one variant or the other, or a combination of the two.  Studies have found that under normal conditions, those with the slow-acting variant have a cognitive advantage.  However, in stressful situations – e.g., test time – the people with the slower enzyme can’t remove dopamine fast enough, and those with the speedier kind take the lead.  They’re often the ones who do better on tests.

Some researchers have labeled those with the fast-acting enzyme “Warriors” and those with the slower variant “Worriers.”  One isn’t necessarily better than the other, it’s just that the Warriors may have an advantage in situations such as tests.  About half of us are a mix between Warrior and Worrier, while a quarter carry Warrior-only genes, and a quarter are Worrier-only.

So are we all predestined to be good or bad test takers, based on our genes?  Researchers say it’s not that simple.  People who are Worriers can significantly improve their performance if they are exposed to stress the right way and allowed to acclimate to it.  Based on their research, here are some more ways you can become a grade-A test-taker:

1.  Tell yourself that stress is beneficial.  It may sound weird, but it works!  Here’s an interesting tidbit from the article:

The first experiment was at Harvard University with undergraduates who were studying for the Graduate Record Examination. Before taking a practice test, the students read a short note explaining that the study’s purpose was to examine the effects of stress on cognition. Half of the students, however, were also given a statement declaring that recent research suggests “people who feel anxious during a test might actually do better.” Therefore, if the students felt anxious during the practice test, it said, “you shouldn’t feel concerned. . . simply remind yourself that your arousal could be helping you do well.”

Just reading this statement significantly improved students’ performance. They scored 50 points higher in the quantitative section (out of a possible 800) than the control group on the practice test. Remarkable as that seemed, it is relatively easy to get a result in a lab. Would it affect their actual G.R.E. results? A couple of months later, the students turned in their real G.R.E. scores. Jamieson calculated that the group taught to see anxiety as beneficial in the lab experiment scored 65 points higher than the controls. In ongoing work, Jamieson is replicating the experiment with remedial math students at a Midwestern community college: after they were told to think of stress as beneficial, their grades improved.

The study found that the students were still stressed, but that “it had different physiological manifestations and had somehow been transformed into a positive force that drove performance.”  The researcher also found that “the people told to feel positive about being anxious had their blood flow increase by an average of more than half a liter per minute, with more oxygen and energy coursing throughout the body and brain. Some had up to two liters per minute extra.”  Amazingly, hearing that stress is beneficial can improve your cognitive function!

2.  “Inoculate” yourself to stress by engaging in competitive activities you might actually enjoy, such as math competitions, trivia contests, spelling bees, science fairs, chess teams, etc.  Although these things can be stressful, they can also be fun and rewarding.  And getting used to competition will make it easier to take tests.

Good luck!


 

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