In higher-level math courses, such as linear algebra and calculus, you’ll be required to find the dot product and cross product of vectors. While it’s important to understand vector operations conceptually and graphically, a cross product calculator is a great supplemental tool for quickly finding the cross product of two vectors.
The essential features of a cross product calculator are the ability to input 2D matrices and a function for finding the matrix determinant. The Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II includes a built-in cross product function as well as a full-color display and an easy-to-navigate menu.
In higher-level math courses, you’ll benefit from a cross product calculator that also serves as a graphing calculator to allow you to visualize the concepts graphically. Graphing calculators are powerful tools for creating graphs of functions and for performing a range of operations.
Some scientific calculators allow you to input matrices in order to perform calculations on vectors, which means you can use some scientific calculators as cross product calculators.
To learn more about the differences between scientific calculators and graphing calculators, check out the full graphing calculator buying guide from BestReviews.
If you’re buying your cross product calculator for a class, be sure to purchase one that aligns with your course requirements. Graphing calculators are ideal for higher-level courses, such as calculus and advanced algebra, but be sure your instructor allows them.
Standardized tests have their own calculator restrictions, which you must abide by in order to bring your calculator into the exam.
High-end modern graphing calculators include backlit screens with bright colors and high resolution, which makes your calculator easy to read, even at night or after long study sessions. Middle-range calculators feature a basic LED display.
Calculators with built-in memory can recall previously entered data such as functions and matrices. If you’re regularly performing advanced calculations, memory capabilities will allow you to save time by storing your most-used functions for long-term use.
Look for a cross product calculator that includes a range of functions you’ll find useful in your math studies. Graphs with animated point plots, lists, spreadsheets and the ability to perform complex equations are nice features in a cross product calculator.
High-end cross product calculators often include a cable that allows you to connect your graphing calculator to the computer in order to manipulate graphs. This is a great function to look for if you’re a serious math student, as it's convenient and allows you to save graphs and other data to your computer.
Most cross product calculators are graphing calculators, which will cost you between $70 - $150. However, it’s also possible to perform operations on matrices on some scientific calculators, which cost as little as $45.
A. The cross product of two vectors, a x b, is equal to a third vector, c, that is perpendicular (or orthogonal) to vectors a and b.
A. Although a cross product calculator is useful for quickly solving for the determinant in a cross product problem, it can’t set up these equations for you and also can’t tell you how to use these variables. In a high-level math course, much of your success will rely on being able to visualize vector concepts on your own and use these formulas on paper. Be sure that you fully understand these math concepts before plugging numbers into a calculator.
While all cross product calculators will have slightly different ways of inputting vectors to find a cross product, finding the cross product on your calculator is generally simple:
First, find the determinant of the two vectors and reduce them into 2 x 2 matrix form. Your graphing calculator won’t be able to solve if you don’t reduce the vectors because your graphing calculator cannot solve for their variables.
Turn your calculator on.
Access the matrix function on your calculator. On a typical cross product calculator, you will press “2nd” and then the key whose second function says “matrix.” On the TI-Nspire, for example, this will require pressing “2nd” and then “x-1.”
Tab over to the menu on your display that reads “edit” using your calculator’s arrow keys.
Select a matrix template. Input the size 2 x 2.
Input the values of the simplified 2 x 2 matrix you reduced earlier.
Press the “quit” button on your calculator to exit setup mode. On many cross product calculators, this will require pressing the “2nd” key and then “mode.”
Navigate back to the matrix menu as you did in step 3. You should be able to see the matrix you created earlier in this menu.
Tab over to the “math” option on your screen. Scroll down and select the option “det,” which is the matrix determinant function.
After you hit the button, “det(“ will show on your screen. Again navigate to the menu via the instructions in step 3.
Select the 2 x 2 matrix you input in step 6. Press enter.
Close the parentheses of the “det(” on your screen by hitting “)” on your calculator.
Press enter. The calculator will output a number. This number is the determinant of the 2 x 2 matrix.
Repeat this step for the other corresponding determinants of the unit vectors.
After solving for each determinant using your cross product calculator, write the final answer in vector notation.
Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS Color Graphing Calculator
What you need to know: This is a comprehensive option for a cross product calculator capable of performing many functions involving matrices.
What you’ll love: From a trusted brand, this calculator is easily the best for finding the cross product of two vectors. Its color screen is easy to navigate, and its menu of functions is easy to learn. The rechargeable battery has an impressive charge, and the fifteen color options for graphs allows for easy differentiation of functions when graphing.
What you should consider: This calculator is so function-heavy that some users found it initially overwhelming to navigate. However, after a little bit of experimentation, this powerful tool is unparalleled.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
CASIO FX-991ESPLUS Scientific Calculator
What you need to know: If you think you need a graphing calculator to find a cross product, think again. Casio’s scientific calculator has matrix functions that allow you to perform operations on matrices at a price you’ll like.
What you’ll love: This calculator is a good supplemental learning tool for linear algebra and calculus courses. You can easily load in matrices and use the built-in function to find the cross product. It is lightweight and slim and has an array of useful functions.
What you should consider: This calculator cannot graph, which may be a dealbreaker in a calculus or linear algebra class. It lacks programmable memory, which may be a negative, but also possibly a positive in courses that don’t allow programmable memory calculators.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Texas Instruments TI-84 Plus CE Color Graphing Calculator
What you need to know: A highly functional graphing calculator from a trusted brand, this model is capable of finding cross products and performing other operations on matrices.
What you’ll love: It has a high-resolution, full-color display, and it is easy to operate and ideal for a number of higher-level math courses and exams. The slim and lightweight handheld design is ideal for transporting the calculator to and from class.
What you should consider: While the TI-84 generally has a good battery life, some users find its recharge time prohibitively long.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Evelyn Waugh writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.