Professor Rants Part 4: Garvey and the graphing calculator

Jazmyne Thomson, Writer

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As co-director of the Honors Program and professor of physics and chemistry, it only seems fitting that this week’s spotlight goes to Dr. (Mr.) Michael Garvey. For those of you who know him, you probably know that he likes his science jokes as much as he likes teaching Marian students. 

Throughout your relationship with Garvey, you may have also been advised to run away from him if he talks for too long. Hopefully, no students have had to resort to this option. But, this doesn’t relate to this story, and Garvey actually admits that he struggled to find a rant that would be appropriate for publication, interesting, or something that both students and staff could relate to. After much thought, the idea of the graphing calculator rant was born.  

Garvey began by saying graphing calculators can cost students anywhere from $80 to roughly $150. These calculators are very handy in that they are a small device made with the specific purpose of graphing and displaying the equations in the way they would be written. Nonetheless, the price for this product still seems very high.  

As years have gone on, such technology has developed that students can now use their smartphones, laptop, tablet, etc., for everything that a graphing calculator can do. Most high schools offer devices such as iPads that students can rent, yet, students still end up paying the high cost for a graphing calculator. “You can’t tell me there’s not a cheaper solution than that,” Garvey says 

Some graphing calculators have rechargeable lithium ion batteries, can connect to the Wi-Fi, and even have games on them. Have you noticed these features on your smartphone? There are even free graphing calculator apps that are offered on both the Play Store and App Store.

“I feel bad because oftentimes professors in science classes won’t let students use those on exams,” Garvey says. While he admits this is fair since students can access the internet on their phone, he explains how it’s annoying that students must spend more money than necessary in order to do arithmetic equations.  

On the flip side, some graphing calculators are so advanced that they can store files in their memory. This way, notes can be stored and used on exams for students’ advantage. For this reason, Garvey does not let his students use advanced graphing calculators on some exams.

“Now I feel really bad when I tell students that because I know your parents, or maybe you as a student in high school, paid for this thing you were told is important…Well now I’m like ‘oh, you can’t use that, you have to get a different calculator.’” He went on to explain that students now have to go out and buy a cheap calculator to use on the exams, when someone a few years ago told them they needed the calculator that costed $120.  

While this may not be a struggle for everyone, any student completing a science-related major can surely understand where Garvey is coming from. Instead of spending money on an extra calculator, students could be saving that cash for groceries, gas, etc. Maybe someday Garvey will be able to stop this madness himself and save our wallets. 

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