A Review of the Texas Instruments TI-12 Math Explorer

As with flashlights, I have had a lifelong fascination with calculators.

I’ve frequently written about them in the past and I always carry one or two in my edc backpack.

This piece will be me reviewing a calculator that I formerly edced from 2012 to about 2016, the Texas Instruments TI-12 Math Explorer. It was initially introduced in 1987 revised in 1989, 1991, 1993 and finally 1997 (the version which I own) and still being produced by the mid-2000s, (mine came off the assembly line in February of 2005) despite an upgraded version, the TI-15 being released in February of 2000.

By the way, I would like to extend a big thank you to the wonderful people at the Datamath Calculator Museum for the photo of this calculator. I do not own the photo.

They are an excellent source of reference material pertaining to calculators and I have spent countless hours on that site, enriching my brain.

There are three to four other items which I had carried in conjunction with this calculator and they are a Blue Incandescent Mini Maglite flashlight, a Black Mini Maglite LED Pro flashlight (serial number: PG000107905), a single coping blade Cabon Steel Klein Electrician’s knife and sometimes a Black 3 D Cell Incandescent Maglite flashlight (serial number: D3049220554.)

The TI-Math Explorer was designed for elementary and middle school use. However, my sixth and seventh-grade math teacher (same person for both grades, Mrs. Phyllis Holman) was teaching us some cool math that was way ahead of the curriculum and was somehow able to get our parents to buy us each a TI-30 for her class!

In sixth grade, I used one of the many hand me down calculators that my mom’s students had discarded.

For seventh grade, I was able to convince my mom to buy me a brand new TI-30 XIIS (double line 1999 version), which I would carry in my pocket both during school and in the off hours. I would indeed sometimes carry it, but I didn’t everyday carry it.

When I was in school, I kept it in my school bag. When I was out of school, I kept it in my toolbox.

I had this calculator well into eighth grade then I misplaced it during the summer between eighth and ninth grade.

I had, believe it or not, lost interest in calculators (as well as flashlights) by this point!

It was in eighth grade that I had first learned about the TI-12 Math Explorer.

My math teacher and distant cousin, Mister Clarence Joseph Tastet, had several in his classroom which he would loan out to the students.

I never needed one of his calculators because I always had my TI-30 in his class.

By the way, one of Mr. Tastet’s amusing quirks was that he very matter of factly said, “Uh…Calculators don’t bounce!” every time a calculator fell on the floor.

He left Vandebilt Catholic High School after teaching me.

Many of the students were so durn ugly to him, I guess it was because of his temper and his no-nonsense approach to teaching. Even though we are like fourth cousins, we have the exact same temper when provoked. By the way, I will say that if you knew him outside of the classroom, he’s a really cool person and extremely smart.

At some point, I had even joked that VCHS’s math department had purchased the TI-Math Explorer in bulk because they matched the said school’s colors.

At the end of my sophomore year, I had found a gently used TI-83 Plus with no name in it, so I was able to keep it.

I would be needing one anyway for the next two math courses I was required to take.

Having this calculator briefly reignited my interest in calculators, but mostly for playing games.

During recess and class if we had free time, I would play games which I had downloaded, like 1943, Mario, Harvest Moon, and Duck Hunt. Of course, I also had to download the Mirage Operating System in order to run games written in the Assembly language on the TI-83 and TI-84 models.

I only got chewed out twice, believe it or not.

During my junior year, I had twice found a TI-Math Explorer laying on the floor.

Both times, there were the owners’ names written on the instruction card

One of them belonged to senior Katherine Mohana, which I immediately returned to her.

I forget whom the other one had belonged to, but I promptly returned that one as well.

Even back then, I guess I had fervently believed in always trying to be kind and honest.

Probably what reinforced this behavior, was that there were signs all over the school which boldly stated, “Practice Random Acts of Kindness.”

By the way, those signs should be placed in every school at every level of education, because they obviously work!

Around my senior year, I had begun to secretly covet a TI-12 Math Explorer.

However, there was only one place that sold them locally and they wanted over $25 for one.

That place was Lee’s Educational Supply in the Historical District of Downtown Houma.

Wal-Mart, Target, Office Depot/Max and even Radio Shack sold calculators that were considerably more powerful (TI-30, TI-34 and TI-36), not to mention their Casio and Sharp counterparts and the knock-off versions all for somewhat less, than what Lee’s Supply was charging for a TI-12 Math Explorer so I had hung up the idea of purchasing one.

I had other interests at the time such as collecting knives and radio equipment. My flashlight interest was also coming back. So that is what I focused my spending cash on.

Fast forward to around the age of twenty-five. I was frequently helping family, friends and now ex in-laws perform household and automotive do it yourself projects.

I was not the expert in the group, except when working on electrical or HVAC equipment, but I soon realized that a calculator which could do arithmetic with fractions, mixed numbers and decimals would be extremely useful.

Sometimes knowledge on what size socket was needed or a piece of wood needed to be cut to a precise amount or just basic arithmetic for a construction or electrical formula needed to be quickly carried out.

In November of 2012 or so, I had seen a used TI-Math Explorer in pristine condition selling for $6.99 with free shipping on eBay.

I had just enough money in my checking account, so I happily purchased it!

It came in the mail a few days later and I had begun heavily using it.

The TI-Math Explorer, while intended to be a classroom calculator, fit the bill perfectly.

Not only could it quickly convert fractions to decimals as well as add, subtract, multiply or divide fractions, decimals, and mixed numbers, it was rugged enough to be carried in a backpack or tool satchel.

It can also do exponents and has a Pi approximation constant of with a precision of 3.1415927, which is featured in lower end scientific calculators.

Furthermore, it runs strictly on solar power, which means it never needs batteries, nor will it be damaged by a leaking battery!

Due to the calculator’s rugged construction, which was to encourage use in the schoolyard, the solar cells and LCD were very protected, it made the perfect calculator for a tradesman or do it your selfer, which is virtually an unrealized market!

The keys and cabinet are made of hard plastic and it comes with a handy cover for protection when being carried or not in use.

I am, however, the only person I know of though, that used a TI-Math Explorer in a non-classroom setting.

In June of 2014, I had bought a Texas Instruments TI-36 X Pro, mainly for assistance in my experiments with weather instruments, but also for weight conversions when going to the doctor and assisting me with computer and radio scanner programming (the little that I know.)

I had kept my Math Explorer in my edc backpack though and would still use it up until about 2016.

In 2016, I had purchased a Craftsman Satchel to put all of my Craftsman tools and easily carry them whenever I needed to make a repair or assist in making a repair and I ended up placing my Math Explorer and all of the aforementioned gadgets I had carried with it in that bag.

In 2018, I had placed it and other gadgets that are sentimental to me in a tactical MOLLE pouch, that I keep near my bed.

For years, I had been wanting Texas Instruments to produce some calculators for tradespeople as other companies had done.

Lord knows their calculators are built very well, perform with high accuracy and precision not to mention they are very easy to use.

However, my opinion isn’t important enough and if it was, Victorinox would have also made a high precision thermometer for people working in the HVAC and food service industry and other companies would have made some cool gadgets that I had suggested.

When I was an HVAC student, I was playing with the idea of teaching myself machine language to write an app for graphing calculators for use in the HVAC field.

My professor, by the way, thought this was a brilliant idea, however, smartphones have become so common that they are used in place of calculators out in the field by tradespeople.

This calculator, The TI-12 Math Explorer goes above and beyond its original call of duty and my experiences with it are indeed very valid proof.

I give it a rating of 5 stars!

I guess I have a way of finding a use for devices where they turn out to be perfect solutions for situations which they were never really marketed far.

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